teachinginterviewSo you’ve decided to teach! You’ve turned in your application, some secret group mulled over your application, CV, reference letters and decided to invite you for an interview.

Congratulations!

You are one step closer to becoming a professor, but don’t begin celebrating just yet. You still have some homework, lots of preparation, and a hiring committee to impress in person. In this article, I’ll share a few tips to help you better prepare for your teaching interview.

Teaching interviews commonly include several components depending on the hiring institutions.  Some may strictly be satisfied with an interview while others may also require any or all of following in addition to an interview:

  • a teaching portfolio
  • research or publications portfolio
  • an on-site writing assignment
  • a teaching demo
  • skills demonstration

In this article. I’m going to mainly focus on getting ready for the actual interview, and I’ll address some of the other components in other articles.
So where should you begin?

Research!

You need to know as much as you can about the school that you are interviewing with. Learn about their history, mission, demographics, programs, curriculum, accomplishments, and their shortfalls. And then ask yourself how can you be of service to them?  Ask yourself how can you add value and build upon what they already have?

In a sense, you need to conduct a SWOT analysis on the institution or department you are applying with.  If you are not familiar with the acronym SWOT, it stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threat. A SWOT analysis is commonly used as a planning method for businesses at the organizational level, unit level, or individual level.

Here’s an abbreviated version of what a SWOT matrix looks like.  For a detailed version check you can download at complete SWOT report from the Alamo College District.
swot

Once you’ve completed a SWOT analysis, figure out how you can help the college or department you are applying with to capitalize on its strengths, turn its opportunities into strengths and manage its weaknesses and threats.

If you already know what you can bring to the school, beyond teaching, you are already ahead of other candidates. Why? Because you’re interested in advancing and improving the institution, and you are demonstrating your interest and willingness in being a service leader if hired.

Besides, you’ll mostly likely be asked a question about why you want to teach for the school, or why you should be selected.  It is always much easier to answer that question if you already know what you have to offer them, rather than fabricating a response on the spot.
Is that it?  No, there’s more!  Getting to know your future employers and what you can do for them is the first step in your preparation.  The next thing you should do is prepare for the actual interview itself.

Having served on numerous hiring committees, I have found that many applicants may look great on paper, but they’re terrible interviewees. It seems as though many of them assume that a well crafted CV is all they need to secure an offer from a college or university. Your CV may get you the interview, but what’s going to maintain your candidacy is the interview and the teaching demo. Unfortunately, many applicants fail to realize this, and they fail to prepare for the interview.

So, how do you prepare?

Practice, practice, and practice!

It is not very difficult to figure out what you are going to be asked in an interview; there are millions of resources on the internet with sample interview questions for teachers, professors, department chairs, deans and other positions in academia.

One of my favorite list of interview questions I use when coaching and running mock-interview sessions with faculty applicants is the one developed by Dr. Christopher D. Lee for Texas A&M International University. For a copy of it, you can go to http://facultyworkshop.com/goodinterviewquestions, and you’ll be re-directed to the questions on the university’s website.

Use this or a similar list to practice answering interview questions. Begin by answering the questions on your own and writing down the answers. Go over the answers several times until you feel confident that you can respond to the questions verbally if asked.

The next step is to set-up a mock interview session. If you are not a highly experienced interviewee, I would recommend that you follow these three recommendations:

  1. Find a friend, colleague, or mentor who has experience in interviewing and hiring people, preferably someone who has previously served on college hiring committees, and ask him/her to run a mock interview session with you. Set-up a camcorder, and record the interview session. This is an excellent way for you to see how you project yourself during the interview and identify things that you need to improve on. Repeat the mock interview session as many times as necessary. Some candidates nail their first interview while others need a bit more practice.
  2. Practice smiling! Not enough people smile during their interview, and this lack really communicates the wrong message. You want to be seen as a well-educated, articulate, and approachable professor.
  3. Dress-up for success! Be sure to wear an appropriate professional outfit during your mock interview. The idea is to simulate as much of the interview conditions that you’ll be going through as possible. Try to wear the same outfit you plan on wearing for the actual interview. When selecting an outfit, stick with a professional, conservative, well-groomed  look. You can’t go wrong with a traditional look.

You’re almost ready for your interview, but there’s just one more thing that you’ll need to do. If you are not familiar with the campus, do yourself a favor and drive to the campus and get yourself acquainted with the commute, parking, and interview location. The last thing you want to do is get lost and be late on the day you are being interviewed.

As one of my colleagues would say, “being late for an interview is the kiss of death.” By being late, you just proved that you’re not able to properly plan ahead and manage your time appropriately.  It’s really not an ideal quality for someone who’s entering a profession where you need to be punctual and organized.

So to recap, here are the 6 things that you need to do to prepare for an interview:

  1. Research the college and department you’re applying with.
  2. Conduct a SWOT analysis and find out how you can be of service and add value to the institution.
  3. Practice your interviewing skills with a friend, colleague, or mentor.
  4. Practice smiling.
  5. Dress in professional conservative attire.
  6. Scout out the interview location in advance.

Well, I hope you found this post useful. If you did, I’d be grateful if you’d help spread the word by sharing this with friends or colleagues on Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook. Thank you!

Dr. Al-Malood

Dr. Fawaz Al-Malood is Founder | Blogger | Podcaster @ FacultyWorkshop.com. He is also a Professor and program director at a large community college in California.