Assume there are 3-5 teaching universities near each other. What would be a good answer for an interview question : why you want to teach at this teaching university?

To me I see no difference and it does not matter which teaching university to work at.

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    There several very different questions in here, some of which far are too subjective and broad. Maybe trim it down to a single question? We can't tell you why you want to teach. – Austin Henley Jan 27 '15 at 3:50
  • Does it matter which teaching university someone work in? Matter to who? – Austin Henley Jan 27 '15 at 3:52
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    Forget the fact that N institutions are close to each other: you should have a solid answer for why you want to obtain a position at the institution that is asking you why you want to work there, i.e. come up with something better than "you're hiring." – Mad Jack Jan 27 '15 at 4:04
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    What about the atmosphere? How engaged are the students? Do you like the other faculty members? Class Size? What courses will you be expected to teach? What non-teaching requirements/opportunities will you have? – Austin Henley Jan 27 '15 at 4:17
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    From your questions, I get the vibe that you assume that there is a sort of pre-canned "right" answer for these kind of interview questions that works for every place (akin to the graduate applications questions that ask "What should I write in my SOP?"). This is a fallacy - think about why you would want to teach in this place and tell them. If you can't think of anything, you shouldn't accept an offer anyway. – xLeitix Jan 27 '15 at 7:22

I can see many things to factor in when choosing among several similar schools. Disclaimer: I am only a student.

  • What about the atmosphere?
  • What impression did you get after speaking to the other faculty? Do they seem enthusiastic and make you want to work with them?
  • What about the campus/building you might possibly be at for the next 20+ years?
  • Did you get a chance to talk to students?
  • Do most students live on campus or do they commute? (From personal experience, this makes a big difference in student involvement!)
  • Department size?
  • Class size?
  • What courses will you be expected to teach?
  • Which has better food?
  • What non-teaching requirements/opportunities will you have?
  • Good points. The atmosphere, campus, and food could be good factors for an applicant but I don't think they will be good for a committee. How students place of living makes difference? – Thomas Lee Jan 27 '15 at 4:33
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    @ThomasLee Again, we can not tell you why you want to teach somewhere. – Austin Henley Jan 27 '15 at 4:35
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    @ThomasLee In my experience, where students live has a huge impact on how involved they are with the university, department, and clubs (e.g., ACM student chapter). There are statistics out there to support this. I remember my undergrad school advertising that students living on campus and involved in a club had X% higher GPA and were more likely to graduate, or something. So it is worth finding out whether these are "commuting" schools or not. – Austin Henley Jan 27 '15 at 4:36
  • Good point. Sure, I don't want you to tell me why, I just need to know what justifiable reasons do others have. – Thomas Lee Jan 27 '15 at 4:46

Let me elaborate on xLeitix's comment. Applicants sometimes feel anxious about interview questions with hidden meaning or context. The stereotypical example is "What would you say is your greatest weakness?", which is not a request to confess something awkward or damaging. Instead it's a test of social competence, of whether the applicant can offer a smooth, natural response that sounds like it is addressing the question and avoids disclosing anything problematic without sounding arrogant either. These sorts of questions are less common in academic interviews, so you can usually assume a question means more or less what it says.

In particular, this question is trying to gauge how well you would fit into the university and department. Teaching universities can be really diverse in how they function, which students they serve, or what they consider their mission. They are looking for someone who will participate enthusiastically and help make the department a better place, not just someone who is willing to teach there (or, worse yet, will feel bitter or resentful about not having found their dream job).

The worst case answer is "Gee, I don't know. You have students, and I can teach. What's not to like?" That basically amounts to announcing that even you don't think you're a particularly good fit. Your comments sound uncomfortably close to this, like you really don't care or see any relevant differences between these schools. If that's the case, then you need to spend some time looking into them online or asking your friends or colleagues. Unless you've applied to an extraordinarily narrow range of universities, I can't really believe they are indistinguishable. And if they are, then you must have targeted this type of school intentionally, so you just need to explain why.

Austin Henley's answer provides a nice list of criteria you could keep in mind, and there are also big-picture issues. Are these schools public or private? How do they present themselves to the world? Is there anything distinctive about their history, such as a religious or social mission (former or current)? Is there any special focus, such as technical or liberal arts education? What sort of student body do they serve?

There are no right or wrong answers here: one person might prefer to teach diverse and economically downtrodden students, while another might be excited about working with exceptionally well-prepared students from the elite. What's important is that your answer should reflect some genuine resonance between you and the school. If it sounds like you are saying something generic or canned, then it won't really help your case, but anything insightful or heartfelt could help.

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    This is a good answer. I would just add that another reason for such questions is that the school wants to know that you are seriously interested in the job; that if they offered it, you would be reasonably likely to accept; and that if you took the job, you'd be reasonably likely to stay. There are very significant costs in interviewing candidates (in money, time, and opportunity cost) so before spending time considering you, they want to know that you are serious. – Nate Eldredge Jan 27 '15 at 17:44
  • Indeed: Lukewarm responses will cost the applicant the potential position or potentially better offer. Enthusiasm rules. – Captain Emacs Jan 19 '17 at 19:42

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