I am preparing myself for a job interview for a lecturer position. According to many articles on academic job interviews, a common question to be prepared for is that " what can you do to enhance our department?" I'm not sure what exactly the committee would mean by that? I understand that I should tailor my own answer but question is not really clear to me.

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    Is this "lecturer" in the UK sense, or in the US sense, or... ? These are very different positions. Aug 6, 2018 at 20:57
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    Good question Dr. Garrett. Its a lecturer position in the US at a very prestigious school.its a dream- come true- gig for me.
    – BigM
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:03
  • Ah, then a further question: a research-oriented place granting PhD's, or "small liberal arts", for example. These, too, are very different places... Aug 6, 2018 at 21:28
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    Very strong research.
    – BigM
    Aug 6, 2018 at 21:38

4 Answers 4


This is an update for those who are planning to go down this route: I had my interview. I was asked a lot of questions regarding my teaching philosophy and experience.

  • I was asked why I like to teach at their university?(to protect my privacy name of university will remain anonymous-but lets say it's a prestigous research university).
  • One particular question I was asked was that what was the most difficult part of teaching I ever faced and how I dealt with that.
  • Also they named a few courses and asked if I've taught them before.
  • They asked if I have ever taught classes as instructor and not a TA.
  • They asked a follow up question asking if I did A to Z of the course preparation myself, e.g. writing syllabus, making exams etc.

At any rate, while I didn't get the cliche of why-are-you-a-good-fit? the committee aimed to get to know me and investigate my teaching skills in detail by asking straightforward questions.


Well, what can you do that nobody else in the department can? Some possible examples:

  1. If you've had experience teaching electronically, and the department doesn't currently offer e-learning, you could point this out.
  2. If you have expertise in a certain subject that nobody else in the department has, you could point this out.
  3. If you've seen the content, homework assignments, etc, of the current courses the department offers, and you think you can do better, you could point this out. For example maybe in your experience students like to learn about [topic] which would be a really good addition to the department's [course], and you are very capable of teaching [topic].
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    Before doing this, I would look for evidence that the department actually wants to offer e-learning, etc. Otherwise, it could be that the reason they don't offer it is that they think it's a bad idea. If so then such an answer could inadvertently demonstrate that you're not a good fit. Aug 6, 2018 at 13:13

It is an obviously open ended question that is intended to be hard. It will be used differently by different people. Often it is used because they can't think of anything very specific to ask you. In the book Siddhartha by Hesse, Siddhartha is asked the question by a potential employer. His response is "I can think. I can wait. I can fast" which seems a bit non-responsive. The statement has been widely analyzed.

A similarly orthogonal answer is sometimes fine, or not, but it depends on your reading of the situation. But the answer should somehow be meaningful to you.

One specific piece of advice, though, is not to use the question to appear arrogant. "I play well with others." Fine, even if a bit silly. "I have a 180 measured IQ." Not fine.

It is good to think about the question. It is also good to think about why you want this job. When you think about such questions, think beyond your professional capabilities. Think about your goals, your other interests, etc.


This is an opportunity to sell yourself. The question is vague which allows you to take the conversation to whatever topic you want to bring up. Teaching? Research? Potential collaborators?

Here is a short list of ideas that I used when I got questions like this:

  • I can teach X, which I think could help the department.
  • My research interests overlap with Y's.
  • No one in the department is currently doing research in Z.

Another technique is to transform vague questions into questions that you can answer. I did this a lot. See my list of questions that I was asked during my faculty interviews for more ideas.

  • Potential collaborators is especially good if you know some things about their faculty.
    – Buffy
    Aug 6, 2018 at 14:25
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    @Buffy I'd suggest to always know a bit about the faculty. I skimmed nearly every faculty member's website during the flight or night before each of my interviews. If they were even somewhat relevant to my research, then I would skim a paper or two as well. Aug 6, 2018 at 14:27
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    Keep in mind that if you're being considered for a teaching-only position they may not care at all about your research interests. Aug 8, 2018 at 3:46

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