Preamble

A couple of very wise mathematicians once told me that the list of possible interview questions, while large, is finite-dimensional. As long as the questions that you have prepared for “span” the space of all interview questions, if they ask you a question from outside of your list, then you should be able to repurpose/combine answers to a few other questions to answer it. The purpose of this webpage is to provide a long list of questions for mathematicians to practice from. People in other disciplines may find some of them useful as well. Different questions may be more suitable for different levels of interview (e.g. PhD, postdoc, faculty, etc).

Questions

- How would you describe your main area of research interest to a non-expert?
- What types of research problems do you like?
- What types of problems would you be interested in working on if you were to be offered the position?
- Could you tell us about your past research experiences?
- Could you tell us about your Master’s/PhD thesis?
- What are your future goals/plans for after this PhD/postdoctoral position?
- What conjectures would you most like to solve, and why those?
- How do you choose problems to work on? What kinds of problems do you like?
- What do you think are the most important results in your field in the last few years?
- Could you tell us about a nice result that is not your own that you have read about recently?
- Have you ever used computers in your research? If so, in what ways?
- What made you interested in pursuing an academic career?
- What area of mathematics outside of your area are you most interested in? Or, which area outside of your main research focus would you say is your greatest strength? Be prepared for a follow-up question to test your aptitude in that area. E.g. if you say "probability," then expect a question like "what is a martingale?" Or if you say optimization, "what is the matching polytope?"
- What do you consider your best publication to date and why?
- How do you like giving talks/presentations on your research?
- What are your most ambitious research goals?
- What is the most novel or innovative thing that you have done in research?
- What are your plans or hopes for future collaborations?
- Do you plan to apply for grants?
- Have you had any prior success in grant applications?
- Tell me about how your research has influenced your teaching.
- What are your plans for finding suitable projects for undergraduate students, graduate students or postdocs within your research program?
- Do you have any prior experience in supervising research students?
- Do you have any experience with improving the participation of underrepresented groups in the mathematical sciences?
- Do you have any prior experiences in outreach or service?
- Do you have any teaching/tutoring/TAing experience?
- How do you feel about teaching?
- Would you be comfortable teaching a large 1st year or 2nd year course to hundreds of students?
- How would you feel about teaching a graduate level course? Do you have any ideas of a graduate level course that you would be interested in introducing in the department?
- Which of the courses in our department would you be most interested in teaching?
- Which of the courses would you be least interested in teaching?
- Are there any courses offered in our department that you feel like you would be unqualified to teach?
- What is the most novel or innovative thing that you have done in teaching?
- How do you feel about moving here?
- Do you have any questions for us? (This is a very standard question that comes up in almost every interview situation. Having a good question can show that you're seriously interested. Perhaps there are some questions about the city, the university, or the position itself that would be natural to bring up here?)