What to Ask a Sociologist in an Interview
Whether you're interviewing a sociologist for an academic position, a role in a community-based organization or even a position in industry or business, the interview will likely involve an in-depth discussion about the discipline, as well as her reasons for entering the field. Responses to your questions about her research interests or what she perceives to be the role of sociology in the community will determine whether her credentials, qualifications and career interests are parallel to your staffing needs.
Ask About the Discipline
One of the first questions to ask a sociologist is how they perceive the difference between sociology and psychology. What distinguishes one from the other, of course, is that sociology is the study of group behavior and psychology is the study of individual behavior.
Questions about the difference between the two disciplines will lead to a discussion about what led to the decision to become a sociologist. Ask the sociologist about her aspirations upon beginning her academic pursuits and whether she has changed her course of study or how she plans to use her knowledge.
Inquire About the Sociologist's Credentials
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many sociologists earn an undergraduate degree in sociology before pursuing post-graduate study to complete a graduate degree such as an M.A. or Ph.D. in sociology. Sociologists seeking professorships in academia must have a doctoral degree, and most instructors of sociology have at least a masters degree.
Therefore, you have plenty of possible questions to ask a sociologist about their education. For example, if you need to verify the sociologist's credentials, simply ask, "Have you earned your Ph.D., are you preparing to defend your dissertation, or did you earn your M.A. in sociology as a terminal degree?"
Ask About Any Interdisciplinary Focus
Those who devote their entire academic study and research interest to sociology have pursued what's referred to as a pure sociology course of study. However, some academicians have an interdisciplinary degree that combines sociology with another discipline, such as history or economics.
Talk About Research Interests
It's probably hard to find a sociologist who doesn't want to talk about her research interests. If you're interviewing a sociologist with a Ph.D., ask about her dissertation topic; if you're interviewing a sociologist who has earned her M.A., ask what her thesis topic was and what her findings were.
If you are interviewing the sociologist for an academic role, such as a professor or instructor, her research interests may shed light on what courses she would like to teach. For example, a sociologist whose research interests focused on work and occupations may be interested in teaching courses on organized labor and its impact on society.
Career Questions to Ask a Sociologist
Sociologists pursue a number of career paths, based on whether they want to pursue a tenure-track position with a university or perhaps a position with a community-based organization. Relevant questions for sociologists who have a deeper interest in serving community foundations and agencies, include "How does your background in sociology serve the needs of this community?" or "How would you apply contemporary social theory to the needs of a non-profit agency that focuses on issues concerning crime within the urban core of the city?"
Businesses also benefit from the perspective that sociologists bring to industry. William Peterson University explains they can be successful in positions that require an understanding of group behavior, such as human resources or criminal justice. For sociologists entering the corporate or protective services field, ask questions that connect social and group behavior to the workplace or to the responsibilities and duties of a criminal justice professional.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.