Academic job interviews

Preparation is key for any academic interview questions. Academic jobs are so competitive it is critical to prepare as thoroughly as possible. Follow our general advice on interviews.

academic interview questionsAdvance preparation

Sample academic interviews questions

Interview presentations

Advance preparation

The interview is most likely to be a panel interview with between two and  ten interviewers. Ask for their names and research them thoroughly.

  • Read recent papers for those closest to your research area. Read other papers that have come from the department you are applying for.
  • Review their departmental website, including their staff list to get a feel for how you would fit in
  • Revisit the job description and essential and desirable criteria.
  • Talk to others about their experiences of academic interviews.
  • Try to organise a mock interview - perhaps with job-searching contemporaries.
  • Look again at the research you did into your own capabilities so that you have plenty of evidence to support your suitability for the job when answering academic interview questions.

On the day

Look at the general advice on interviews, and these tips when facing academic panel interviews:

  • Dress smartly - these are formal occasions
  • Shake hands with the interviewers as you are introduced and try to remember their names
  • Be ready to show that you have the capability to do the job, you understand the department and institution and that you have clear ideas about how you and the job will develop in the future
  • When answering questions, look primarily at the person who asked the question, but do glance along the panel from time to time to include all the members
  • Think through your answers to the questions below so that you can communicate your ideas coherently in the interview.
  • Don't forget to ask your questions.

Sometimes, you will also be seen informally by a number of departmental staff before or after your panel interview. This is a chance to learn more about the department and your potential future colleagues.

Sample academic interview questions.

Here are a few examples of the types of questions you may face in an academic interview. They are fairly general. In real-life interviews, they would be tailored to the relevant job criteria. We also have a more detailed set of questions.

  • What were the key achievements of your research project/PhD?
  • Outline the project you would undertake if you were awarded research funding
  • Who are the key researchers in your area? How does your work compare with theirs?
  • In this institution, we are keen to develop collaborations between departments. What opportunities for multi-disciplinary work does your research offer?
  • What plans do you have for publication of your current research?
  • The university is keen to serve the wider community and economy. Does your planned research have any potential in these areas?
  • If your current funding application is unsuccessful, what alternatives do you have in mind? (looking for knowledge of the funding infrastructure)
  • If you were starting your project again today, what would you do differently?
  • Describe a research problem you have faced. What did you learn?

Interview presentations

It is common to be asked to give a presentation, such as an outline of your recent research or a short lecture. Look at our general advice on giving  presentations.Talk to your supervisor and other academic researchers about presentations they have given at interviews.

  • When preparing your presentation, keep to the brief you are given. If unsure, ask
  • Anticipate your audience - try to find out as much as possible who will be present and their interests
  • Have a clear structure: decide the key points you want to make
  • Practise your timing - you may be cut off in mid flow otherwise. Get feedback from others on your presentation.
  • Start confidentially, speak clearly to the whole audience - ensure you include everyone with regular eye contact
  • Use audio-visual equipment if it enhances your presentation. Take care that any electronic files you bring are compatible and prepare good quality visuals
  • Consider taking prepared handouts for the audience
  • At the end, invite questions and thank your audience

Review their website, including their staff list to get a feel for how you would fit in.