August 18, 2006
Interview Questions for Law Professors
Posted by Gordon Smith

The faculty recruiting season has begun. Some schools are already on the prowl for laterals, and many entry-level candidates have submitted their resumes to the AALS Faculty Appointments Register. I am not on the Appointments Committee this year, but I will take an active role interviewing candiates who visit on call-backs, so Paul Kedrosky's post on interview questions caught my eye: "If you were conducting a job interview for a [new law professor colleague] and could only ask one question, what would it be?"

Paul gives an example from an article entitled "The Best Interview Question of All Time." The question: "Please think about your most significant accomplishment. Now, could you tell me all about it?" As Paul notes, this is an obvious question for a business executive, and thus, perhaps too easily anticipated if you are looking for "candid" rather than "canned."

I don't remember ever hearing that question in an interview with a professor candidate. In the professor context, the best questions are tailored to the candidate, inquiring about specific aspects of the candidate's research. But law professor interviewers typically have a supply of stock questions, too, which tend to be prospective: "What's your research agenda?" "What classes would you like to teach?" And, of course, "Why do you want to be a professor?" (That one would please Paul.) You will occasionally run into someone who forgot to consult the list of stupid interview questions, and asks, "What is your biggest weakness?"

Here is a question that I like: "Can you tell me about any law professors who serve as models for your career?" Most candidates find it easier to talk about their professors than about themselves, and the answers can be quite revealing of the candidate's priorities.

Do you have any favorite interview questions?

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