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Sample Interview Questions

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Types of Interview Questions

There are many common questions that are asked in most interviews. Below is a list of common interview questions by type:

Traditional Questions | Behavioral Questions | Faculty Interview Questions | Questions You Might Ask | Illegal Questions | Salary Questions

For more information on answering questions, visit our page on successful strategies for structuring your answers.

Traditional Questions

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Why did you choose your field of study?
  • Why are you interested in this organization/position?
  • In what ways can you contribute to our organization?
  • What skills do you think are most important for this position?
  • How do you evaluate success?
  • What role do you usually play in a team?
  • What previous work experience has been the most valuable to you and why?
  • What are your three biggest strengths? Your three biggest weaknesses?
  • What has been your biggest challenge?
  • What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  • Describe your leadership style.
  • How do you motivate people? What motivates you?
  • How do you deal with pressure?
  • How do you manage your time?
  • What characteristics are most important in a good manager?
  • What things are most important to you in a job?
  • What challenges are you looking forward to in this position?
  • Are you willing to travel or relocate as part of your career?
  • What things frustrate you most? How do you deal with them?
  • What do you see yourself doing five years from now?
  • In what kind of work environment are you more comfortable?
  • What have you learned from your mistakes?
  • What else should I know about you?

Behavioral Questions

  • Tell me about a time when you had to cope with strict deadlines or time demands.
  • Give me an example of a time when you had a particularly challenging situation with a peer/co-worker/customer. 
  • Describe a time when you were under pressure to make an immediate decision.
  • Tell me about a situation when you had to stand up for a decision you made even though it was unpopular.
  • Tell me about a new idea, policy, or procedure that you implemented that was considerably different from an existing one.
  • Describe a time when you had to bend the rules in order to be successful or accomplish a goal.
  • Tell me about a time when you took the initiative to set goals and objectives even though you were not prompted or directed by others to do so.
  • Tell me about a time when your understanding of organizational climate or culture helped you to achieve your desired results.
  • Tell me about a time when you were proud of your ability to be objective even though you were emotional about a problem situation.
  • Describe a work situation where you set a positive example for others.

Faculty Interview Questions

For more  you might encounter, visit our page on Faculty Interviews.

  • Tell me about your research/dissertation. (Have versions for experts and non-experts.)
  • Why did you choose your dissertation topic?
  • What contribution does your dissertation make to the field?
  • Discuss the limitations of your research.
  • What are your research plans for the next (x) years?
  • What facilities/travel/resources do you need for your research?
  • What are your plans for securing funding to support your research?
  • What characteristics do you think are important to be a good teacher?
  • Are you a good teacher? Explain why and how.
  • What is your teaching philosophy?
  • How do you feel about teaching [names an introductory level course]?
  • What courses are you prepared to teach?
  • Do you have any new courses you'd like to develop?
  • How would you instruct and guide undergraduate research?
  • What are your other interests?
  • How would you describe your ideal job? What type of institution do you prefer to work at?
  • How do you feel about this institution/community? Do you think you could live in this small, rural town?

Questions You Might Ask

Most interviewers will set aside time specifically for you to ask questions. Asking good questions reinforces your interest to the interviewer and provides useful information in your evaluation of the employer. Come to the interview prepared with more questions than you will actually ask. Here is a list of questions you might use:

  • What are the most challenging aspects of the job?
  • What is the departmental structure? Where does this position fit in the organization?
  • Why do you enjoy working for your organization?
  • What initial training will I receive?
  • What opportunities for professional growth does the organization offer?
  • How is an employee evaluated and promoted?
  • What are the characteristics of a successful person at your company?
  • What are the organization’s plans for future growth?
  • What is a typical career path at your organization?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing the organization/department?
  • What is the management style of the organization? Of the department?
  • What are the goals of the department? Of the organization?
  • How would you describe the culture of your organization/department/college/campus?
  • How much travel is normally expected?
  • How many hours a week do employees usually work?
  • Does the organization promote from within or fill high-level position with outside hires?
  • What does the department or campus do to orient new faculty members?
  • Does the campus or department have formal faculty mentoring programs? Informal mentoring?
  • Describe a typical first year teaching assignment.
  • What is the evaluation process like here? How is promotion and tenure handled?

Illegal Questions

While it is illegal for employers to consider an applicant's race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin when making an employment decision, you may encounter inadvertent questions about these topics. A few questions that you should not be asked include:

  • Are you a U.S. citizen? (It is acceptable for an interviewer to ask if you are authorized to work in the U.S.)
  • Where were you born? What is your native language?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you married? How many children do you have?
  • Do you have any disabilities? (It is acceptable to ask if an applicant is able to perform the essential functions of the job.)

It is common for these questions to arise in social situations with well-meaning (but ignorant) interviewers. For example, during a site visit lunch, an interviewr might mention something about their children, then inquire if you also have children. When responding to such questions, assess the situation and do your best to understand the concern or reason for the question. You may determine that you are comfortable answering the question. Other times, you may want to deflect the inquiry. In general, avoid responding with a combative tone. It is your choice whether you wish to volunteer information that would be illegal for interviewers to ask.

Questions about Salary Requirements

It is not uncommon to be asked about your salary requirements at the time of application or in an interview. You may need to answer questions about your salary requirements, but avoid negotiating. Here are a few tactics that might help:

  • Research salary ranges before the interview so your responses are appropriate.
  • Provide a range instead of a single dollar amount to give more options in the negotiation.
  • Avoid committing to a specific dollar amount if asked.

The following sample phrases may be useful:

  • “I applied for this position because I am very interested in this position, and I know I can make an positive impact once on the job, but I’d like to postpone discussing salary until we are both sure I’m right for the job."
  • “I expect to be compensated at a rate that is commensurate with my education and experience.”
  • “My requirements are negotiable."
  • “What would you hope to pay someone in this position?”