The Two-Year College Interview

Details of the hiring process vary from institution to institution, and certainly no two interviews are identical. However, here are some general guidelines about what you can expect.
This webpage is based on advice Katryn Wiese, at the City College of San Francisco, and Mike Phillips, at Illinois Valley Community College, developed for the Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences workshops.

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What the Hiring Committee is Looking For

Again, every institution is different. But for many two-year college positions, the following considerations are key; demonstrating these will make you a very strong candidate:

  • Teaching experience at the college level
  • Breadth in the subject area
  • An understanding of teaching, learning, and assessment
  • Enthusiasm for teaching
  • Experience with technology
  • Enthusiasm for the community college environment and for our college (we do not want to hire someone who plans to leave right away)
  • Respect for students and colleagues, so that we know you will work well with others
  • Commitment to the students
  • Commitment to doing the best job possible, and hence filling in gaps in expertise (ability to teach yourself)
  • The best way to get your foot in the door is to teach part-time—gets you into the union and gives you certain protections—so that if all else is considered equal (between you and another applicant), you have priority. Also, it gives you a deeper comfort with the content covered in the classes taught at that department.

Getting An Interview

At Illinois Valley Community College, the hiring committee designs a rubric directly from the job posting. All of the items listed are worth "points"; the more of these items you have, the more likely you are to get an interview. These same items are discussed by the committee after the interview. For example:

  • Academic Performance: courses taken, interdisciplinary breadth, educated in science (Master's degree required)
  • Teaching Experience, college/high school experience a plus, participation in field experiences, courses taught, variety in course delivery methods including on-line
  • Professional Experience in the area of Science: job history, research, field work, resume listings
  • Technology: instructional technology experience, computer literacy, on-line or blended course delivery, GIS, web page development
  • Presentation of File: overall presentation of file, listing of special qualities which may include past or present experiences (things like committee work, student organization involvement, and community involvement)
In short, you are most likely to get an interview if you can address all of the qualifications listed in the job posting and if you do so in a professional manner.

The Interview Process

Once all written applications have been reviewed, a certain number of applicants are invited to campus for interviews. The interview includes a teaching demonstration, a question and answer session, written questions, and possibly a meeting with an administrator.

The Teaching Demonstration

An impressive teaching demonstration will go beyond correct communication of content to highlight your strengths as an educator. Add information not included in the textbook for the course to show your ability to add value to your courses. More than anything, DEMONSTRATE your diversity of teaching methods. Each candidate for this position will be doing a teaching demonstration on exactly the same topic, so you want to think about how to stand out. Usually, you have to teach to an audience that cannot respond, but do so as if it were a real class -- this can be challenging!!!

Question and Answer Session

Every interview will include a meeting with the hiring committee, at which they will ask you a series of questions to assess your qualifications for and interest in the job. Some questions address broad topics of teaching style or discipline knowledge, while others are very specific to the content covered in a course. At most community colleges, the hiring committee asks every candidate the exact same questions, in the same order. In many cases, they "grade" your responses according to a rubric. This makes it especially important to answer the questions you are asked. Anything provided beyond the question will not be considered in your rankings.

Here are some sample interview questions, for an environmental science faculty position at Illinois Valley Community College. (Note the first two questions; these set the tone for the interview.)

  • Why do you want to be a community college instructor? How did you come to this decision?
  • What have you done to improve your knowledge or skills in the past year? Give us examples of how you keep current in your discipline.
  • What are the most effective pedagogies and course delivery methods for teaching environmental science? Explain your answer.
  • Which aspects of resource consumption do you think are the most important to address in an environmental science course? Why?
  • Which non-Natural Science discipline (i.e. economics, politics, ethics, etc.) has the greatest impact on environmental issues? How would you cover this area in the environmental science course?
  • Which Environmental Science textbooks are you familiar with? Which do you prefer? Why?
  • How do you assess student understanding/learning other than through exams or quizzes
  • Student interaction is not occurring in your classes. Is this a problem? What do you do?
  • Describe the characteristics you possess that demonstrate your ability to work well with students and colleagues.
  • What other obligations do you anticipate and would like to be involved in as a full-time Environmental Science instructor at IVCC?
  • Most likely, all of the candidates interviewed for this position will have the necessary education and experience, so what qualities would you bring to this position that perhaps other candidates would not?

Other possible interview questions:

  • How will you support the mission of our institution?
  • How will teaching at a non-research university keep you satisfied?
  • How will you handle teaching a diverse student body (racial, religion, economic, and simply different styles of learning)?
  • Describe your teaching philosophy.
  • Tell us about a teaching challenge you have faced and how you overcame it.

Written Questions

Many community college interviews include time for you to answer written questions. These typically cover similar material as the question and answer session, but give you the opportunity to demonstrate your writing and organization skills.

Preparing for the Interview

Much of this advice is simply common sense, and applies to all interviews, everywhere. Nonetheless, it is essential!

  • Get all the information you can on interview particulars: time, place, length of time, topics, AV equipment available, etc.
  • Bring backup to the interview in case the computer fails to work!
  • Dress? Casual professional.
  • Do your homework and demonstrate your work ethic/standards. Showing is better than telling.
  • Learn what you can about the college and the department before the interview; the internet is a great research tool in this context. At a unionized school, you can even find out what the salary scale is.
  • Relax. You don't know anything about your competition or what the hiring committee wants. (Treat it like an audition for a play—there are so many things you have no control over that they might be looking for; just do your best.) There's nothing you can do about that, so be yourself, be confident in who you are, and be prepared to "not get the role." It won't be personal.