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Common Online Teaching Job Interview Questions

Common Online Teaching Job Interview Questions

by Dani Babb
June 13, 2014

You have an online teaching job interview scheduled and you aren’t quite sure what to expect. You may feel a bit nervous, or if you are a pro at this you may already know what to expect, and have an answer for everything that is asked. My goal in this post in the series on Steps to Getting Your First Online Teaching Job is to help you identify some of the more common interview questions that deans and professors report asking (or being asked) during interviews and to share the reasoning behind some of the questions from the hiring manager, dean or human resources perspective so you can think about the interview and prepare ahead of time.


After you have provided email responses to most questions, the next step is usually a one-on-one or group phone interview (though more recently Skype video interviews). While you may feel nervous, remember that the people interviewing you more often than not report they are trying to “rule you in” not “kick you out”, so come at the interview with this in mind. Now I will get to it.. some of the more common interview questions:

1. Share with me/us your experience with teaching adults.

The interviewer is wanting to find out not just about your experience, but that you know there is a difference between teaching adults and teaching traditional students. I suggest making this clear in your response.

2. Share with me/us your experience teaching online.

Just like the question about your experience teaching adults, the interviewer may just be checking to be sure you know that there is a difference between the methodologies used and engagement level online than in traditional education. He or she is also looking for what your experience level is (“I have X years experience teaching in XYZ platforms teaching ABC subjects” is a nice way to start this one). If you have no experience teaching online, just be candid about it. “I have experience doing ABC, but I have yet to teach online. However. .I believe an online instructor needs to…” and this is where your teaching philosophy comes in. What does an online instructor need to do? What open source platforms have you used just to learn them online (Moodle etc)? Did you have experience as an online student that transfer into the classroom as a professor?

3. How did you hear about this position?

If you have a reference or a referral (please be sure they are in good standing with the university, to the best of your ability, before name dropping!) then explain that. If you found it online you can say that too. I would suggest somehow bringing in why you wanted to work here or what you found appealing in the job description as well.

4. Why do you want to work here?

Simple enough. You read about them online right? You learned about them in our forums right? You have heard great things about how they uphold academic integrity, how they stand behind their faculty, they communicate regularly, your colleagues love working there, etc. If you are applying to a faith based school be sure to mention this element.

5. How do you engage students?

If you have experience doing this, you know that communication, emails, announcements, thought provoking questions, getting to know your students and making them feel important in class matters. If you are a new instructor, you will be engaging your students by doing these very same things and have learned from online professors you have taken courses from or have talked with colleagues about, right?

6. Tell me about a scenario you have dealt with recently in which you had to work with a very difficult student. Explain the situation and how you handled it.

Dean’s tell me they are looking for candidates who know they need to 1. Follow university protocol first and foremost, 2. Communicate, 3. Try to reach the student, 3. Try to understand both sides of the issue when applicable, 4. Let the student’s adviser know, 5. Re-engage the students to try to retain the learner. With these items in mind, try to tell the story. Explain what the background is with no names whatsoever (no university names and no student names), how you handled it, and what the outcome was.

7. I see you work for quite a few universities. How are you going to fit this into your workload?

Try not to take offense to this question. Simple answers here will do wonders. If these scenarios apply, talk about them. 1. The other universities you work for only schedule you X number of times per year and you find yourself very often with far less work than you can handle. 2. You manage your time very effectively. 3. You never take on more work than you can handle and still provide quality instruction. 4. While your CV may seem as though you work for a lot of places, this has given you a lot of experience and scheduling is all over the map, with little consistency. Dean’s tell me they want candidates who address this question candidly and honestly, and that they understand an adjuncts workload can be scattered and that it is very likely the candidate does in fact have time for the job.

Remember, try to turn each question into a dialogue! Answer the questions, but allow the interviewer to get to know you, too! Let them hear how personable and thorough you are (while not boring them, so don’t take 5 minutes to answer a simple question). Honest answers are important, and remember almost everything is verifiable online. You may get asked questions about your subject matter expertise, but I find this is rare; usually it’s for positions in research methodology. The interview is an important time for you to emphasize the points you would like to make.

When the interviewer asks if you have questions the answer is absolutely never “no I do not” (unless you don’t want to work there).

Some questions you may consider asking:

  1. How long are the terms?
  2. What platforms do you use?
  3. Do you require or allow synchronous sessions? “I want to work for a school that upholds academic integrity. Can you tell me a little bit about your policies in this area?”
  4. Who would I be directly working for?
  5. What is the course review process if I notice something could use updating?

The goal with your questions is not only to answer questions, but to show the person interviewing you that you “know how the process works” and are asking questions that imply you will better the curriculum and be a thorough instructor.

Please share your most common interview questions in the comments area below!

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Contact the author Dr. Dani Babb
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