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Just want to second "do your homework". The first one of these I had, I was totally unprepared. The meeting with the dean was the only place I had to answer questions like "why do you want to work at THIS college as opposed to some other one?". They will also often ask you about potential for interdisciplinary work, about courses you might like to teach, about service you might be interested in doing, and also about your research plans (especially at R1s). Also, twice at larger universities I ended up meeting with Assistant Deans, so if you have time, it's worth looking them up too, just in case.

Fundamentally I think at R1s the most important thing is that you can describe your research quickly at a level that will be accessible to the person, and also that you can describe your research PLANS so they will be accessible. At SLACs and smaller/regional universities I think you will be more likely to be asked questions about service and teaching, and also why you want to come to that place (geographic location and school), though I think I got asked "why THIS college/university?" in every meeting I had with a dean.


I do not think you need to know about the dean, but it helps if you know something about school (outside the department of Phil), and something about the community (especially if it is not a major city like NY or Boston). Show some interest in being there. But the dean should also be prepared. A good dean will tell you things about the institution - one told me there was a presumption that you will be tenured if you are hired (rather than what happens at some R1s, where there is a good chance you won't be tenured). Or they can address questions about changes in the department, like some recent early retirements, etc. I think it is a chance to have a frank conversation about what you might perceive to be problems or challenges.


I'll second Marcus on the claim that this question really depends on the type of school and even the particular school. When I had my interview for the community college job I currently have the dean was on the interview committee and I had a separate interview with her. I later found out that I was the first choice of the dean and the faculty for my position, but I think the dean definitely had veto power on the faculty's choice. Had they really disagreed I think it likely they would have just moved down to the next name on the list. In my interview the dean seemed to have the same concerns that previous posters have said deans at SLACs had: Basically would I be satisfied in this job and would I stay? I didn't get any questions about why I wanted to live in the region exactly, but I got a lot of questions about why I wanted to work at a community college.
I had another interview with a dean at a large teaching focused state school many years back as well. That one was much harder to read and as far as I could tell it was more or less pro forma (I don't know as I didn't get offered the job). Basically in that one all the dean did was go over the collective bargaining agreement the school had with the faculty union and tell me that if I did get the job there would be no negotiating salary since that was determined by the collective bargaining agreement. I can't even remember if the dean actually asked me any questions in that "interview."

Marcus Arvan

anonymous, Tenured, and SD: All great points!

I'll second Tenured's point that it's a good idea to know about the community, and third anonymous and SD's related point that it can be important (particularly at SLACs/CCs) to make address the "why THIS job?" question particularly well. Similar to SD, in several interviews I had at small SLACs, it became very clear to me in the dean's interview that they were trying to gauge whether I would stay in the position if hired. Sometimes I was explicitly asked if I would stay if I were hired, other times it was more implicit. In any case, no dean presumably wants to do a hire only to have the person jump ship and have to do the hire all over again.


On deans ...
At teaching centered places - typical state colleges - deans take a lot of pride in their hires. I recalled my dean - the one who hired me - stating at a function that she had been responsible for the hiring of 75 of the 300 faculty. This, in turn, made me very loyal to her. And it paid off, not so much in pay, as in opportunities to do exciting things on campus. ... until she left

Curious Individual

Thanks everyone for chiming in! I did my homework on the dean (and an associate dean) and it paid off because I ended up having a meeting with both and having plenty to connect about. No questions about my research, but plenty about teaching, interdisciplinarity, and the like.

Marcus Arvan

Curious: woo hoo! That’s awesome to hear. A great example of just how important “the personal element” is with these kinds of things. Hope you get the job! :)

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