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Mark D. White

In my experience sitting with a lot of candidates in their meetings with deans, the apparent purpose was for the dean to tease out the candidates' general intellectual acumen as a researcher, teacher, and colleague: specifically, to see how well they can discuss their work with educated audiences outside their field, answer questions, and respond to challenges. The dean may also ask questions related to their own institutional interests, such as a new program or center they're establishing, that may be orthogonal to the department's own interests in hiring.


I had some meetings with deans where I was asked very standard types of interview questions (e.g., "Why do you want to work at X University?" "Tell me about an impactful teaching exercise you've used." "Where do you see your research in X years?") Others were more conversational/relaxed. Meetings with deans were usually where I learned about the tenure process and resources for research. In my experience, there was always a lot time for me to ask questions.

SLAC Associate

At least at the SLACs that I have experience with, it's common for the meeting with the dean to be at least partly informational, with the dean informing the candidate about tenure & promotion expectations and processes or talking about various administrative aspects of the job. There are also often "mission-related" questions during the dean interview, aimed at discerning how the candidate will add to the institution's mission and/or strategic goals.

It's also worth saying that at every SLAC I've worked at or interviewed, the dean had a (rarely used, but real) veto over the hiring process; the dean can simply refuse to make an offer to the department's chosen candidate, so it is important that you take that meeting seriously and show (as per Mark White's comment above) that you'll be a good colleague and contributor to the college as a whole, not just to the philosophy department.


Agree with everything that's been said above. To add on to some of these: almost every dean I've met with has asked real questions about my research, and this is more likely, in my experience, the closer a dean's own field is to philosophy (ex., I got some especially serious/technical questions from deans who come from a religious-studies background). That can be tough, since it's hard to know what level to pitch your answers at. I would always err on the side of treating a dean more like a knowledgeable colleague, while still doing everything you can to make your answers clear and accessible.

Perennial Candidate

If you're unsure of what the purpose of the meeting with the Dean is — that is, whether it's a mere formality to give you a chance to ask about the institution or whether the Dean has a real say in the search committee's decision — you should ask the search committee chair. After all, if they want to hire you, the search committee will be hoping you made a good impression on the Dean, whether the Dean has a veto or not.

Anonymous on this one

Echoing SLAC Associate, in most universities the dean is the one officially making the hiring decision. The department makes a recommendation to the dean, then the dean ultimately makes the decision. Probably 999 times out of 1000 the dean will go with the department’s choice. But not always. Especially if you display any sort of disregard for or disinterest in the mission of the college/university or the students. So when meeting with dean, show respect for the students and be prepared to elaborate on how you’ll contribute to the college/university missions.

Daniel A Kaufman

I've chaired multiple search committees and been a Dept Head through even more searches, and I can tell you that "Anonymous on this one" is exactly right.

The Dean can unilaterally reject a candidate that the entire department may have universally recommended. It's rare, but I've seen it happen.

Fortunately, though essential, the Dean interview is also the easiest. Follow AOTO's advice and it will go fine.

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