PhD Interviews: Questions, Tips & Advice to Ease Nerves

In summary, ask any questions you feel are important to determine if the person is a good fit for the program and whether they have any questions about the program or the interview process.
  • #1
Kinase
26
0
I managed to get a bunch of interviews. I'm nervous. What kinds of question should I expect? Are they going to try to quiz me on things? If I don't know who's interviewing me and I can't read their papers, what do I do if I'm unfamiliar with their field/specific project?

What kinds of questions should I ask? How about to the students? Are questions about financial things something you ask? I know that's part of reality, but really I want to go their to talk about science and whatnot.

Really any tips would ease my nerves.
 
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  • #2
Interviews have not been a part of the admissions process in any school that I've been involved in - so take this with a grain of salt.

Chances are the interview won't be a heavy on the technical side of things. I doubt the schools that use them really use them to assess the technical merit of the applicants (although this might be worth looking into a little more at the specific institutions you're dealing with). My reasoning is that they have transcripts, GRE scores, and reference letters to use for that. Chances are more that they use the interview as a means to find out more about the applicants to see if they are a fit for the graduate program in terms of interests and general background, and to try to figure out what kind of project they might do well on.

I would prepare to answer questions along the lines of:
  • Why are you interested in our program specifically?
  • What do you know about the research being done here?
  • What have you done to prepare for graduate study beyond your coursework?
  • What material have you read recently?
  • What projects have you worked on and what did you get out of them?
  • Which of our professors are you most interested in working with?
  • What are your long term goals - academic, professional, and general?
  • Do you have any ideas for a graduate project?
  • What do you know about the PhD process?

As far as questions that you can or should ask, don't be shy. Potentially you're going to spend a lot of time and energy at this school. It's important to have the facts on how everything works.
  • Financial support: how are students supported? What kind of support can you count on? Can it be topped up?
  • How are students supported in the summer months?
  • Is tuition waived or does your stipend cover it?
  • What is the local cost of living? How do current students manage?
  • Which supervisors are actively looking for students?
  • Where are your recent graduates ending up?
  • What are the expectations of me as a student: hours, teaching, etc?
  • Can I take vacations?
 
  • #3
PhD interviews? For grad school in physics? That seems strange - I had one interview, but it was for a fellowship and not for admission (though I wasn't told that before the interview, ugh). It was way more technically challenging than I expected. But admissions interviews? Strange.
 
  • #4
Dishsoap said:
PhD interviews? For grad school in physics? That seems strange - I had one interview, but it was for a fellowship and not for admission (though I wasn't told that before the interview, ugh). It was way more technically challenging than I expected. But admissions interviews? Strange.

It is very common in Europe.
 
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  • #5
MinasKar said:
It is very common in Europe.

Since the OP's profile says he is from the US, I guessed I assumed he was pursuing grad school in the US? OP, can you tell us where you're attending grad school?
 
  • #6
US. This is for PhD in some sort of biology related field, be it biochemistry, molecular bio, bioinformatics. Do physics programs not have interviews? I was just under the impression that pretty much all programs did. At any rate, I've been doing plenty of reading and such and am going to prepare answers for common questions like that.

At least I got sick this week instead of when the interviews are.
 
  • #7
Just talk about the science. Read the papers of the people you are interested in working with, and show some broad appreciation of work going on in the programme.

You can of course also ask questions about housing, finance, weather, music in the city etc and other important things.
 

Related to PhD Interviews: Questions, Tips & Advice to Ease Nerves

1. What can I expect during a PhD interview?

During a PhD interview, you can expect to be asked about your research experience, academic background, and career goals. You may also be asked to discuss your research interests and potential projects you would like to work on during your PhD program. Additionally, the interviewer may ask behavioral questions to assess your communication and problem-solving skills.

2. How should I prepare for a PhD interview?

To prepare for a PhD interview, you should research the program and faculty beforehand, familiarize yourself with your own research experience and interests, and practice answering common interview questions. It's also important to dress professionally and arrive early to the interview.

3. What are some common mistakes to avoid during a PhD interview?

Some common mistakes to avoid during a PhD interview include not researching the program and faculty beforehand, not being prepared to discuss your research experience and interests, and not asking thoughtful questions. It's also important to avoid being too nervous or arrogant during the interview.

4. How can I make a good impression during a PhD interview?

To make a good impression during a PhD interview, you should come prepared with thoughtful questions, demonstrate your knowledge and enthusiasm for the program and research, and be confident and professional. It's also important to actively listen and engage with the interviewer, and follow up with a thank-you note after the interview.

5. What should I do if I don't know the answer to a question during a PhD interview?

If you don't know the answer to a question during a PhD interview, it's okay to admit that you don't know. You can also ask for clarification or take a moment to think before answering. It's important to be honest and not try to fake an answer. The interviewer will likely appreciate your honesty and ability to handle difficult situations.

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