The applicant to an academic job should expect an initial interview, conducted over phone or skype, prior to being invited for an on-site interview. The purpose of this phone interview is typically to establish a better rapport with the applicant, to get a better understanding of the applicant’s research area and expertise, to inquire of the applicant’s vision for the engineering field, to evaluate the applicant’s communication skills, and to reassess the applicant’s overall fit with the department’s needs. The applicant will be evaluated through a series of questions for which the applicant should be well prepared. The intention of the following lists is to provide an indication of the types of questions the applicant can expect in the phone interview, as well as some advice to impress the interviewers. If you have other insights, let’s discuss! Use the Add Discussion box at the bottom of the page.

PART 1: Advice for Successful Phone Interview Strategies:


I. Preparing for the interview:


  1. Have clear, concise and doable future research plan.
  2. Don’t spend too much time on past research – how will you distinguish your professional career from your dissertation?
  3. Do your homework on the institution, department, research centers, and faculty!
  4. Determine who can you collaborate with in the program?
  5. What funding opportunities will you apply for in your first year?
  6. Know what research the faculty are doing.
  7. Have a clear vision on laboratory and equipment needs to be successful.
  8. Create a “needs, wants and wish list” of laboratory equipment that is prioritized.
  9. Have a startup fund amount that is feasible and realistic.
  10. Be specific in your teaching pedagogy.
  11. Give examples of activities, labs, assignments you would give in a class.
  12. Explain HOW (again, using examples) you teach to different learning styles, underrepresented groups and/or a diverse student body. Does this include different modes of instruction, or different assignments?
  13. Have a clear differentiation between lower and upper division courses.
  14. Indicate any innovative pedagogies you use and explain how you implement them in the classroom, such as flipped classroom, active learning strategies, just-in-time teaching, hybrid online learning, or project and problem-based learning.
  15. Remind yourself to stay on message when answering questions, and avoid wandering off topic or rambling on too much. Interviewers want clear, crisp answers.
  16. Have thoughtful, well-prepared and meaningful questions for committee
  17. Don’t ask questions readily answered on a department website.
  18. Ask specific questions about students, class-size, technology in classroom, RTP expectations, etc.
  19. Be interested (truly interested) in others’ work.
  20. If possible, talk to recent hires, especially when you are made an offer and before you accept a position (everything is negotiable).
  21. Remember: If you REALLY want to be a faculty in EES, do everything you can to prepare, and don’t give up!

II. Common mistakes and missteps during the phone interview:


  1. Not focusing on skills and duties outlined in job advertisement, or being unfamiliar with the job description.
  2. Not being prepared, not knowing specifics about University and Department.
  3. Not knowing specific courses in the department that you could teach.
  4. Offending others’ research, or being defensive or hostile.
  5. Not answering questions but instead veering off to prepared talking points or off onto tangents.
  6. Lack of detail in answers, or not giving examples of “how” you would address the topic in your answer.
  7. Errors in name of the institution, centers, city, etc.
  8. Not presenting a clear research vision.
  9. Taking too long when discussing your research.
  10. Not being prepared for the question, "Do you have any questions for me?"
  11. Not paying attention
  12. Appearing too confident and bragging about past achievements or current school.
  13. Not doing your homework about the people or the institution or who will be in the interview.
  14. Only talking about past research and not your future research vision.
  15. Not showing honest interest in the interviewer’s conversation, or constantly checking your watch or cell phone.
  16. Not being fully prepared to say how you'll get funded and whom you'll collarborate with.
  17. Not answering questions clearly and succinctly
  18. Not being prepared to discuss collaboration potential with specific faculty. Need to research the work of each faculty member.
  19. Making statements too philosophical instead about your qualifications.
  20. Not being yourself.

Part 2: List of questions applicants could face from a first interview over phone/skype


I. When applying to an R1 or Graduate University:


  1. Why did you choose this institution?
  2. Who would you collaborate with in at our institution and why?
  3. Research funding is highly competitive. How will you differentiate your research from that of your mentors and others in the field? What is your competitive advantage in research funding?
  4. What do you see are the most important research challenges in the field of environmental engineering and sciences?
  5. What is your expertise and current research field?
  6. What faculty members at our institution might be potential collaborators?
  7. What facilities and instrumentation do you expect to need? Does our department or university currently have these facilities or instrumentation?
  8. Describe the most important contributions of your past research. In your view, what will be your most important research contributions for the next 6 years?
  9. How do you see yourself fitting in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at our institution?
  10. What are your thoughts about integrating research and teaching?
  11. Why do you want to be a professor?
  12. What courses do you feel capable of teaching?
  13. In terms of personnel, what do you expect your lab to look like once established? How many grad students, postdocs, undergrads?
  14. How would you approach teaching undergraduate courses compared to teaching graduate courses?
  15. What are your strongest scholarly attributes? What are your areas for improvement?

II. When applying to Primarily Undergraduate Institutions (and teaching questions):


  1. Why did you choose a teaching focused university?
  2. You will be expected to teach introductory courses to a wide range of backgrounds and learning styles, how will you approach a class filled with majors and non-majors alike?
  3. Our institution has substantial number of underrepresented and underserved students and students with varied academic backgrounds. How would you address different learning styles and cultural backgrounds in your courses?
  4. As a faculty member, you will be responsible for teaching 3-4 courses per semester including introductory as well as upper-division courses. Which of the current courses in our department are you qualified to teach? Which are you most interested in teaching?
  5. How will you incorporate undergraduate research opportunities into your classes?