Archive for February 17th, 2009

Having prepared answers to frequently asked questions on the job market can make the interview process a lot smoother, but I think that it is also important to prepare good questions to ask.  I first realized this a few years ago when I heard that faculty members laughed when a fellow graduate student asked what their students were like during a phone interview.

On the surface, there is nothing wrong with this question.  The problem arises when it is asked so often that it becomes hackneyed.  The solution is to ask questions related to this theme that show you have thought about the meaning behind it.  For example, ask how many of the students have jobs, what type of placement (academic and non-academic) they typically receive after graduation, and whether the school’s selectivity affects typical grade distributions.  The answers to each of these questions will help you form an image of what their students are like.

You can also ask questions that show you have done your research.  Rather than asking how many majors they have, when this information is available on the department web site, note that you know how many majors they have and ask if this number has changed over the past five years.  For schools with a religious affiliation, you can ask how that affiliation is reflected in classroom interactions.

Obviously, I have not cornered the market on good questions, but here are some suggestions for engaging faculty and administrators in conversation (also available as in PDF format).

Questions to Ask


Other than graduate school, what types of jobs have some of your students recently received after graduation?

How many of your students have jobs?

What are typical class sizes at each level?

What kinds of faculty development opportunities are there?  Travel?  Computers?

How does advising work?  Does each faculty member advise a certain number of students?

What is the process for deciding the topics and professors for the special topics classes?

What are the tenure expectations for new faculty?  Have those expectations changed since you went through the tenure process?

What is the human subjects process like here?

What is your typical grade distribution/how does your school’s selectivity affect grade distributions?

What is the relationship between the community and the school like?

What do you like most about working here?

What is the anticipated timeline going forward?


What are your tenure expectations for new faculty?

How is the sociology department thought of within the school?

Where do you see the school going in the next 5-10 years?

What is your vision for the college/sociology department?

What would you like to see in terms of teaching, service, and research from a junior faculty member going up for tenure?

How is faculty assessment handled?

What is the school’s financial status?  How is the school responding to the recent economic downturn?

What support exists for faculty research?

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