Commonly asked questions in academic interviews

Be prepared to answer the sort of questions  in this list (which will be tailored to your research area) in addition to general interview questions. It is a good idea to prepare and even rehearse your answers. If you are confident in answering all of these you will be well-prepared.

About your research
General research questions
About you and your capabilities
About your ability to gain funding
About your proposed research
About your role as supervisor/teacher
About your ‘fit’ with the department

About your research

  • What is innovative about your research?
  • How is your work distinct from your supervisor’s/principal investigator’s? How intellectually independent are you? 
  • What influences have you been exposed to?  Do you think you have enough breadth of experience?
  • Who has influenced you the most?
  • What has been your role so far in developing research ideas and carrying them forward?
  • What do you think are your most significant research accomplishments?
  • What do you consider to be your best paper/work and why?  What did it change about the way people approach the field?
  • What are your most important publications?
  • What has been the impact of your research?
  • What papers do you have coming through in the next year?
  • If we gave you the position what might go wrong? How will you manage the risks

General research questions

  • What do you see yourself doing in ten years' time? What are your professional goals in the next five, and ten years?
  • How will this job help you achieve your long term career plans?
  • What would you do on the first day of the job?
  • What are the big issues in your research area?
  • Who are the key researchers in your area? How does your work compare with theirs?
  • Who are your main competitors?  What are they doing? How will you compete with them?
  • Why would someone come to work for you and not for your competitors?
  • How does your work align with contemporary trends or funding priorities?
  • How would you bridge the gap from your research to research users?
  • The university is keen to serve the wider community and economy. Does your planned research have any potential in these areas?
  • How do you feel about translating your research into innovation or spin-outs? Can you give an example of when you have been enterprising?
  • Describe in layman’s terms why your research project is interesting in two minutes.

 About you and your capabilities

 About your ability to gain funding

About your proposed research

  • What will be your major focus as an independent researcher?
  • In one sentence, what is the most important question you want to address?
  • How does the work you propose follow on from what you are already doing?
  • What will you focus on and what gives you a competitive edge in this area?
  • What is the overall importance of this project?  How do you see this work impacting the field?
  • What will you do if your hypothesis is proved wrong?  Can you see any of your research proposal failing?
  • Why is the technique you have chosen more likely to succeed than other approaches?
  • Have you already done anything to test the feasibility of your project? 
  • If you could only do one aspect of this project, which one do you think is key?
  • If we gave you unlimited resources, what would you do with them?
  • If we gave you X amount of money, what would you do with it?
  • What resources will you need?
  • How would you deal with the more limited resources or facilities compared to what you anticipate for the project?
  • How do you plan to manage this project on a day-to-day level?

About your role as supervisor/ teacher

About your ‘fit’ with the department

  • Why do you think you are the right person for this position?
  • Why do you want to come here?
  • What will you bring to the institution?
  • We are keen to develop collaborations between departments. What opportunities for multi-disciplinary work does your research offer?
  • How would you fit with the existing activities in the department?  Who do would you expect to collaborate with in the institution?  Why do you want to collaborate with them?
  • What committee work have you done and what challenges has it presented?
  • In what ways, other than research and teaching could you contribute to this department?