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I have applied to several tenure track positions and I have gotten a couple of emails saying that I passed the initial round of review and that my application will now undergo a more detailed review as they will shortlist participants for screening interviews. So, I’m trying to prepare for those interviews (even if it is still not sure I’ll be interviewed). My question is, how much time are you usually given to prepare for the screening interviews? I mean, are you usually given a couple of days, a week, 2 weeks? This is my first time applying to tenure track positions, so I have no idea what to expect and I can’t seem to find an answer for this question.

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The answer is that it can vary considerably.

Between being told that you're invited for a first-round interview, and the actual interview itself, it could be a matter of multiple weeks, or just days.

Some hiring committees will tell you the names of the people who will be interviewing you (meaning that there's more "preparation" you can do, since you can look up those interviewers and their publications), and some of them will not. Some of them will give you an example question or a list of questions that would be worth preparing, but most of them will not.

Some of them will give you a minute or two at the beginning to introduce yourself, so this is something for which you can prepare regardless! Some of them won't ask you to do that though.

Here's some things you can do to prepare for your interview:

  • If there's a tenured or tenure-track faculty member (or even someone who has done similar interviews in the past even if they were not successful) in your field with whom you're fairly close, you can ask them for advice about what the experience will be like. You might gain more valuable information that way than by asking here, since we don't know your specific field of study, and an answer for a political science department won't necessarily be valuable if you're applying to a mathematics department.
  • Take a look at the research output of the department to which you applied.
  • Take a look at the courses that the department offers, and think about which ones you might be able to teach.
  • If they don't tell you the names of the interviewers (you could also ask the chair of the hiring committee for that information, but if they don't offer it to you themselves you might not get it this way, and you might just prefer to be more passive about such things) you can do a bit of guesswork to figure out the most likely people on the hiring committee: the chair of the hiring committee whose name is usually on the job ads or in the correspondence with you, the chair of the department (if not already the chair of the hiring committee), some professors who work in the specific field or the most closely related field to the one for which the position was advertised, and often there will also be someone from outside the department but in the same faculty (for example if you're applying to a biology department they might have a chemistry professor there). In Canada, you might have an equity and inclusion officer at the interview, or a Vice President Research (or similar) if you're applying for a position associated with a Canada Research Chair award. You can take a look at the research of these potential committee members, and think about what questions they might ask and how you may want to answer them.
  • Read over your application materials! Review what you wrote in your proposal, especially if you're submitting slightly different applications to different universities depending on each university's focus.

For the interview day, just relax. There's really not much you can do to prepare for the initial stage interviews other than what I've written above. I'd recommend to have (if available) a big screen open on your computer if it's an online interview or phone interview, and have your research proposal and CV open in case they ask questions about it, and perhaps also the faculty profiles and publications lists of the potential members of the hiring committee, since this may help you connect your answers about research questions to things that they know. Likewise you can keep open a list of the department's course offerings in case they ask you about what courses you can teach.

Finally, to prepare more, you can look at some of the questions that we at Academia.SE recommended to a hiring committee member, for what to ask applicants like yourself! The suggestions are meant to be reflective of what is typically asked at such interviews: What questions should I ask as a candidate during an interview for a tenure-track assistant professor position?

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  • Thank you so much for your detailed response! Yes, I’m starting to see the whole process varies greatly. Even within the same department (e.g I wasn’t expecting these emails saying that I passed first round, no interviews yet but maybe in the near future). And yes I’ve noticed some universities have a list of sample questions and others don’t. So, I guess it’s preparing the best I can with the information I can gather from that department and university and try to relax that day. The whole process is so stressful though. Again, thank you very much!
    – user134795
    Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 17:04
  • I'd also suggest that you take a look at the institution's website and familiarize yourself with the institution and the surrounding community. The most embarrassing thing I've ever seen in a first-round interview was when the candidate assumed that my institution was located in another city 75 miles away from its actual location. Commented Jan 3, 2022 at 18:09

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