How to Prepare for Your PhD Interview

By - Jan 18, 07:36 AM Comments [0]

Although not all PhD programs require interviews, most do, and you will  usually interview with the faculty member who will be supervising your research. If you’re invited to a PhD interview, you want to take full advantage of the opportunity you’ve been given by preparing effectively.

In this post, we’ll focus on some of the questions you might be asked in your PhD interview and offer tips on how to prepare for them.

What were the factors that prompted you to apply to this program?

  • Review your notes on the department.
  • Familiarize yourself with the research agendas of the faculty members, especially the professors you want to work with.
  • Make note of any unique opportunities you would have as a student in the department. Does the department provide funding to attend and/or present at conferences, or subsidized housing for graduate students?
  • Read journal articles or books written by the professors you are most interested in.

What are your research interests?

  • Be prepared to briefly discuss your past research and how it influenced what you want to research in the PhD program. 
  • You might also be asked about your research methods. You’ll want to have an explanation ready as to why you elected to investigate your hypothesis the way you did. If you could start again, what would you do differently?

What is your research plan?

  • Present the specific topic you aim to research in the program and explain how you believe this research will contribute to the field. 
  • Be prepared to discuss important issues in the field, such as bias and discrimination in AI training data or algorithms. 

What strengths are you bringing to this program?

  • Know what your standout skills, qualities, and experiences are – as well as any areas you might need to improve on. If you have had any teaching experience, mention that you look forward to being a Teaching Assistant, if that type of position is available to you.

What are your goals post PhD?

  • Do you want to continue to research and teach in academia? Or do you want to research in an industry setting? Be clear about your objectives, but it is also okay to indicate that you are open to other opportunities that might present themselves while you’re in the PhD program.

What questions do you have?

  • It is important to have a few questions prepared in advance. We do not recommend trying to come up with compelling questions on the spot. 
  • Some questions you can consider include “Will I have the opportunity to collaborate with faculty in other related departments?,” “What do you think differentiates this department from other programs?,” and “What advice do you have for me that would help me excel in this program?” 
  • If the topic you are researching crosses over into other departments, you can ask about interdepartmental collaboration.

Usually, your PhD program interviewer will have read your application materials and your resume/CV before your meeting. So, make sure to review everything you submitted, especially if it has been several months since you uploaded your information. You don’t want to be caught off guard. However, this type of interview is also a conversation. Be confident – the faculty would not be taking the time to interview you if they weren’t serious about your candidacy. And remember to smile; it’s not an interrogation!

Dr. Karin Ash

With 30 years of career and admissions experience at four universities, including Cornell’s College of Engineering and Johnson Business School, Dr. Karin Ash facilitated students’ entry into the world’s best companies. As an adcom member, she also evaluated applications and therefore knows what schools and employers seek. Want Karin to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch! 

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