I've been lucky to get a lot of advice from people who have recently hired and also those who have recently been on the job market, but all of it has been from people who have spent all their time at R1 schools, and so particularly the advice about questions I would be asked in first-round interviews has been totally different than what I was told to expect.
Lauren's experience here coheres with my own experience on the market. Just about all of my mentors--both in grad school and post-graduation--were people who had only worked at highly-ranked research institutions. Once I got a temporary job at a teaching-focused institution and started interviewing at more teaching institutions each year, it became progressively clear to me that the advice I was receiving was not all that helpful for applying to or interviewing successfully for teaching schools. Make no mistake about it, the values and hiring priorities at teaching schools can be very different than at R1s. And, or so I've heard, things are different still at community colleges. But this raises a difficult set of questions we haven't ever really answered at the Cocoon--the most general of which is, how can candidates best prepare for interviews at different types of schools?
Since we've never addressed this and other related questions head on, I figured now might be a good time to begin a new series: an Interview Tips Series where candidates share the kinds of questions they received in different types of interviews, search committee members at different types of schools share their personal, departmental, and institutional hiring priorities, and so on. My hope is that it will be a helpful, informative series!
I propose we begin, then, with readers (both candidates and search committee members) sharing the kinds of questions that come up in first-round interviews for teaching-focused four-year universities. Although it's been a few years since I've interviewed, here are just a few sorts of questions I recall getting at teaching schools:
- Why do you want to work at our school? (Almost never came up for me in R1 interviews, almost always came up for teaching schools!)
- What was one teaching challenge or failure you encountered, and what did you learn from it?
- How would you teach an introductory class effectively with different levels of students, some more advanced but others in need of remedial instruction for reading, writing, etc.?
- How would you balance teaching, research, and service? (I also got this one a lot)
- How would you teach class X, which was listed in the job advertisement for this position's AOC? (Got this one a lot too)
In my experience, the first of these questions ("why do you want to work here?") can be especially important. In my experience, people at teaching schools may care deeply about the priorities of their institution and want to make sure a new hire is a good fit. I also think it probably shows an important level of conscientiousness on the candidate's part to show knowledge of the school above and beyond a quick glance at the department's webpage. I also think it's important, when answering the 'How would you teach class X', to not simply give an outline of the course structure (including which readings you would assign), but to also include (A) your rationale for teaching the course that way (e.g. historically, topically, etc.), as well as (B) concrete examples of assignments, in-class, activities, etc.--so that the people interviewing you can get a clearer picture of what you are like as an instructor on a day-to-day basis.
But these are just some of my thoughts. What is your experience? Candidates and search committee members, what kinds of questions have you seen arise in first-round interviews for teaching schools?