On Interviews (2): Past Interview Questions

In an academic job interview, the interview Q&A is one of the more terrifying things to go through – you never know what kinds of questions your panel will ask. Or do you?

Over the years European historians have collected questions from various academic job interviews, and when looking at the UK job market you certainly see recurring themes: past and future research; teaching; funding; impact/REF; admin; other. Below, you’ll find a list of these questions organised by theme. You can practice answering them with a friend and/or colleague in order to get yourself better prepared for the big day, but you don’t even need another person: this is one of those moments where talking to yourself out loud can pay off.

Thanks to all of you who have shared your interview questions with us! And for those of you still going through the interview process, remember to write down the questions you’ve been asked when you come out of interview, and perhaps share them with friends, colleagues… and us! 




Why did you apply here ?

What’s so special about us that you want to come here?

Tell us why you want to work at this department in this university.

Why did you apply to X and how do you see yourself fitting in?


Why should we choose you ?

What’s so special about you that we should hire you?

What kind of skills and experience will you bring to us?

What kind of a colleague are you?


How would you fit into the department/colleagues/university/city?

How do you see yourself fitting here?

I see you do diplomatic and political history, how are going to fit with the department that has a clear socio-cultural dimension?

Where do you see yourself fitting in the department and with who would you collaborate?

With whom in the department could you collaborate, and why?

You mentioned in your presentation your methodology is mostly qualitative, would you work across methodologies? With who in the department?

What plans and ideas to connect work to the wider university and the city of X?

Could you reach out to other departments?

Are you interested in working/collaborating across departments/disciplines?



If you were on the BBC for an hour what would you talk about?

Why would you give up your two year post doc to get this job?

You seem to be involved in a lot of different engagement and research projects. By doing everything, are you not worried you will be remembered for nothing?

What do you think your colleagues say about you when you aren’t there?



The 5-year (or 10) plan :

What is my publication schedule over the next 5 years ?

What is your 5 year plan?

Also what kind of a historian do you think you will be in a couple of years?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?


How important is your topic?

How important is your topic compared to other priorities in the field?

Why should we care?

What are the broader implications of your research?


How does your work fit into your field/different fields ?

How does your work fit into the different fields you contribute to?

What are the major developments in your field in the past 50 years?

What main question drives your research projects ? What is the point of these projects ?


How do you use traditional approaches & methodologies ?

Presence of/view on the tradition of social history in your project?

What are the challenges of your multi-archival and multi- level analysis?


Future Projects ?

What is your next project?

After you finish your new/next project, what will your third project be?




What are your broad plans to bring in funding ?

External fund raising plans?

Describe any projects you think you could use to bring in funding.

How do you plan to continue raising funding?


What are the specific plans?

What research grants applications do you have in mind?

What funding sources would you look to for research ?


What about networks and collaborations ?

Do you have ideas for networks or collaborations that will bring in external money?



Teaching Experience

You mentioned you taught this course before, what other teaching experiences have you had ?

Which university did you prefer teaching at : X or Y?

Can you teach courses a bit (or even well) beyond your period?


The course you offer

What’s the rationale behind your course on offer?

Can you tell me what would students get out from this course on (X)?


Attracting students

How do you plan to attract students to your course?

Your third-year course sounds interesting to us as academics, but how would you recruit students who have no background in your field and might not see the merits?

How would you get one of your students (who you are mentoring) interested in history ?


Explaining your module

Pretend this is your first class of the undergraduate and you have to introduce yourself and the module.

What is the [Cold War]? Why will student take your course on this topic?

You mention nations other than X in your course description, but how much do you really engage with them ?


Other Courses

Tell us about what thematic second-year course you would offer.

Tell us about what specialist third-year course you would offer.

How would you differentiate your MA courses from your undergraduate ones, apart from the specific content?


Dealing with students and diversity

How do you teach in specific locales/motivate undergrads ?

How would you deal with students who are hungover and haven’t done the readings?

How would you deal with teaching MA students who are 50 years old and haven’t been in formal education for many years, especially when they are in the same class as recent undergraduates?

As a historian who works with languages, how would you confront the challenge of teaching research-led courses to students with no foreign language abilities?



What of digital humanities and how it might help the department ?

What do you think of Blackboard/Moodle ?


What about postgraduate level ?

How would you attract PhDs?

What is the difference between teaching at UG and PG level?



How would you teach existing optional modules ?

How would you teach existing core courses ?

We have always really struggled to get students enthusiastic about the core methods and research course we offer here in 2nd year : how would you improve it ?

What is the biggest criticism that you have received in student feedback ?

Do you believe in exams?




Do you know about the impact factor in the REF?

What kind of impact would your work have?

How can you contribute to Public engagement and Impact ?

What about outreach and working with schools ?




What kind of service/admin duties would I be interested in ?

In terms of administration, can you tell us about a time when you have actually been able to change something? For instance, a process or a regulation.

Are you willing to take on admin roles? Would you be interested in contributing to internationalizing the university?




PhD advising – how is this going to develop?

Are you thinking of developing any research centres ?

When do I hear back ?






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