Liberal Arts Career Services
Liberal Arts Career Services


Generally, there are three types of questions you may be asked* in an interview:

  • behavioral: assessing past performance to determine future potential
  • industry-specific: assessing knowledge and skills relevant to position
  • case-style: using a problem or scenario to assess communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills

*Interviewers cannot ask about your citizenship status, marital or family status, age, disability status, religion, or arrest record. For tips on handling these scenarios, reach out to a career coach.

Here are some strategies for answering some of the toughest interview questions. 



“Tell me about yourself.”

Prepare a clear and concise response. Think an elevator pitch, summarizing your background and why you are interested and a good fit for this position and organization.

“What are your weaknesses?”

Employers are looking for self-awareness. You can disclose a skill deficit or a lack of experience, and how you plan to improve upon this weakness.

“You don’t seem to have any work experience in our industry. How do you know you will succeed here?”

Describe the relevant unpaid work you’ve done, or mention the research you’ve done about the industry or the organization, citing recent information, and give an example of how you are a quick learner.

“We need our employees to be result-oriented. Don’t academics in your field tend to discuss problems in a theoretical way without providing solutions?”

Describe an incident when you identified a problem and solved it, preferably on a shorter timeline than the multi-year process of writing your dissertation. Any results you can quantify are even better.

“Writing a dissertation seems like a solitary endeavor. How are you at working with other people?”

Play up any committee work you have done, organizations you belong to, your rapport with students, and any experiences in which you wrote collaboratively or helped someone edit their writing.

“Why are you leaving academia?”

Emphasize your personal strengths and why they make you a better fit for this job rather than an academic job. Or mention the characteristics about the organization you’re interviewing with that attracted you away from academia—better financial security, geographic location, contact with certain populations, etc.

“Won’t you miss teaching or research?”

Specify what it is about teaching or research that you enjoyed and how you hope to be able to continue those aspects in your new job.

“What are your salary expectations?”

Be sure to research this position and company (see Glassdoor and to prepare for this question. You can always ask the representative if they have a salary range budgeted for the position. Adjust your expectations for cost of living and additional factors (such as relocation). You do not have to disclose your current compensation.

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  • Liberal Arts Career Services

    University of Texas at Austin
    FAC 18
    2304 Whitis Ave. Stop G6200
    Austin, Texas 78712-1508