If you’ve been asked for an interview, your academic qualifications are sufficient to be successful in the program. Therefore, interviews almost never focus on issues of academic qualifications. Instead, they’re designed to clarify the following general questions:
Are his of her interests compatible with the interests of the faculty?
Although students often change their focus after they enter a program, faculty also try to determine whether a candidate has the required stick-to-it-tiveness, or whether his or her interests are short-lived and ephemeral.
Does the candidate understand the demands of the program?
Some candidates have no idea how difficult and demanding a program will be. To avoid such misconceptions, it’s useful for faculty (and for students currently in the program) to provide the candidate with a “realistic preview” of life in the program.
Does the candidate have the required language and interpersonal skills to function effectively in the program? Language skills are particularly important if the student will be required to teach.
PhD interviews can be a great learning experience if you are well prepared. I have been interviewed at multiple universities and haven’t been able to secure a position yet. But, I keep trying.
My interview experiences were mostly positive and the rejections happened because of three major reasons:
1. I lacked the necessary skills required for that position.
2. They got a candidate better suited for the project.
3. Their research interests didn’t align with mine.
I remember a few details from interviews . I can summarize the questions in the following list:
Talk about your motivation to join this project/program.
Briefly explain your research experience, and how is it relevant to their project.
What technical skills did you learn during your Masters?
Have you read so and so paper related to this topic?
What do you think about this particular experiment done in this paper?
Could you make a small list of experiments that you would do to approach the given problem?
What kind of lab environment do you prefer? (Working alone or in collaboration)
What methods you used for documentation of your research work.
What statistical tools did you use and why for your project/s?
Do you have your own scholarship?
Do you know the eligibility criteria for getting a fellowship from the university?
Would you be willing to learn new techniques from other fields(say programming) as a biologist?
Can I talk to your thesis advisor to get their idea of how you performed as a student?
What I learned is , how to refine my own research questions before applying. How to make my CV look more appealing by learning new skills (I can write simple codes in Python and Octave now ☺). I learned to not make my life revolve around a PhD. And, finally I learned to do a corporate job, that adds to my experience and makes my future more stable.
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