Jump to content

Interview Questions/ Answers


Recommended Posts

I have seen a lot of posts on these forums that give lists of questions that are common (or uncommon, but that might come up) at interviews. I'm curious to hear applicant's approaches/ strategies to answering some of the common but general questions. 

For example: Tell me about yourself. Why do you want to be a psychologist? 

How forthright are you about aspirations that deviate somewhat from your POI's hopes for a student (if you are a good match for the lab, but obviously not an 100% match)?

Thanks, and good luck to everyone!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I am very forthright...PIs aren't looking to create a carbon copy of themselves/ a 100% match. 
Plus there is no benefit in not being honest. Otherwise, you get accepted in the lab and have to admit "actually...."

In an interview I had, the POI actually expressed that she hopes she is able to learn and explore with me down my intended path 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Always be honest. Sure, creating a "perfect" answer might help you get admitted, but then you also might end up at a school that doesn't truly know what you want out of the program.

I also wouldn't be worried about not being a 100% match. When you bring a different approach or a slightly different interest you are helping to grow the program and create your own path.

Link to post
Share on other sites

There's quite a few web resources on this topic and you can use Google to find them.

 

That being said, here's the common questions I ran into during my 7 interviews last cycle (I am now a 1st year at my top choice clinical program):

  • Why my lab/this program/this city/clinical psychology?
  • If you had unlimited funding, what research topic would you want to explore? 
  • Tell me about you/what you are passionate about.
  • What is your long term career goal - academia, private practice, industry? 
    • A note on this one - if you are interviewing at clinical PhD programs, most always want to hear "be an academic or work in practice ~25% of the time and be faculty 75% of the time so my research can be informed. Most clinical PhD programs, ironically, are aiming to create faculty and contributors to science, not  just clinicians. Saying you are just intereted in clinical practice can really be a bad thing to say... however, PsyDs and counseling psych programs tend (from my understanding) to appreciate this answer a bit more. All I can say, is if you are pursuing a clinical PhD, you should probably have at least a strong initial interest of going into the academy. 
  • What are your strenghts? What are your weaknessess?
    • Be genuine here. I told my POIs striaght up I over-committ myself (I'm a high achiever lol). I am aware of this though and didn't want it to be a problem in grad school, so in the same statement for weaknessess I talked about my reckoning with this being an issue and how I have been addressing it/plan to address it in grad school and beyond. 
  • Tell me about your most recent research project? What are the main takeaways? 
  • What's something interesting you just read (book or research)? 

 

Really there aren't too many odd-ball questions from my experience. Just be yourself, and the right program will accept you if it is where you are supposed to be. ALSO, this is supposed to be an opportunity for you to get to know the program and the current students as well, so ask lots of questions of them too! 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm also having a hard time figuring out how to answer the tell me about yourself question too. Are they looking for you to talk about you, in regards to research, what you're currently working on, your personality traits, populations you're interested in working with, past experiences related to grad school, etc.?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, dr. bubbles said:

I'm also having a hard time figuring out how to answer the tell me about yourself question too. Are they looking for you to talk about you, in regards to research, what you're currently working on, your personality traits, populations you're interested in working with, past experiences related to grad school, etc.?

 

Usually like "why you do what you do." There is usually a connection between most of those things I'd say. Crafting personal narratives are very important for any career. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just had my first interview this week, and one thing that took me a little off guard was that they had all 4 graduate student hopefuls also interview/chat with various faculty across the psychology department (that is, from cognitive, neuro, and developmental). I will admit, I was not too knowledgeable about most of their work. However, most of the conversations were just general chats about what things I am interested in within my POI's lab. Yet, some of these faculty members wanted me to generate hypotheses on the spot. They also asked me to share my line of reasoning and theoretical orientation. So be sure to have an extremely well developed answer in your back pocket in case someone ask's you, "Oh, I see you're interested in X. Well, what would you expect to see with X if....(blah blah blah) and why? What is driving X?" 

Link to post
Share on other sites

For those of you who already went to your in person interviews, around how many people did each faculty member invite? And how many people were there interviewing total?

The only interview I got invited to is from 9-4:30 on 2/9 and apparently involves group and individual interviews. I am just slightly intimated by the prospect of group interviews with a large group of people because I am not the greatest at those types of interviews because I have a reserved personality and find it hard to take up space in large group settings. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/25/2018 at 9:41 AM, MixedMethods said:

I just had my first interview this week, and one thing that took me a little off guard was that they had all 4 graduate student hopefuls also interview/chat with various faculty across the psychology department (that is, from cognitive, neuro, and developmental). I will admit, I was not too knowledgeable about most of their work. However, most of the conversations were just general chats about what things I am interested in within my POI's lab. Yet, some of these faculty members wanted me to generate hypotheses on the spot. They also asked me to share my line of reasoning and theoretical orientation. So be sure to have an extremely well developed answer in your back pocket in case someone ask's you, "Oh, I see you're interested in X. Well, what would you expect to see with X if....(blah blah blah) and why? What is driving X?" 

Did you have an opportunity to even ask other faculty questions specific to their work? I'm wondering how valuable and efficient for me to read articles from them or if I should just skim their abstracts. 

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had an on-site interview at a university this week. 

Some important interview questions I have prepared include (and I think everyone should be prepared to answer these questions very confidently and fluently):

Your educational background;

Your best quality, characteristic, personal trait- this should be something that can facilitate your future research career, such as tenacity;

Why do you want to pursue a PhD- for me the answer is definitely that I love research; I love teaching; being a professor is a rewarding career;

Why do you want to do a PhD in this area (my area is quant psych/methods)- my answer is that I am more interested in methodologies and statistics; this is an area full of opportunities for growth; I love coding; great job prospects;

What are your research interests- I just gave a very general answer (in my area, POIs don't expect us to have a very clear idea of what topics you want to do in the future. You can just tell them you are interested in such and such area). If you have a more detailed answer and your interests match your POIs, that's even better;

What are your career goals- when it comes to goals, I think you should be specific, like I want to get 5 first author publications (you can even name a few prestigious journals in which you want to publish) ; I want to graduate within 5 years; I want to become an assistant professor in 6 years; I want to create very popular R packages; choose some challenging but realistic goals;

What is your greatest strength and weakness (yes, they asked me what my biggest weakness was)- I said that my greatest strength is my ability to solve problems in very challenging situations and I gave an example (very important); as far as my weakness, I said I don't have a strong background in math/stats but I'm planning on taking a few refresher courses like calculus online and after I begin the program I will take as many stats courses as possible (the truth is most incoming PhD students don't have strong background in math/stats in our field, so this is not a fatal weakness and it is something I can improve upon);

Which research project are you most proud of- they are giving you an opportunity to impress them, so be prepared with a great answer;

Why you want to join their program- I said my research interests match yours very well and I like the courses your program offers; I also said that I love this city;

Also, show your eagerness to learn and do research! They want to see that you are driven to do a PhD.

If you have these questions prepared, you will talk confidently in the interview.

One good tip I want to share with you guys is that keep your answers succinct, easy to understand, and to the point. I don't think they expect you to give very detailed and long answers within 30 minutes (that's the normal length of an interview). A very complicated answer is very likely to make them confused because when you are being interviewed, you will feel nervous, and your speech may become unorganized under pressure.

Also, think of an interview as a conversation, not a test. This is very important. If you think of it as a test, you are going to feel very nervous and uncomfortable. If you think of it as a conversation and an opportunity to tell them how great you are, you will feel very confident and look very confident. They want to see that confidence.

I never try to memorize my answers. I practice these questions by asking myself these questions while I am walking, cooking, doing exercises. At least for me, It's a very effective way to prepare for interviews.

 

Edited by wnk4242
Link to post
Share on other sites

During one of my interviews with faculty that was not my POI, I was asked about my views on pharmacotherapy vs. psychotherapy, if I thought x treatment was the end all treatment for x disorder, and a question about if a treatment isn't working is it the clinician's fault or the treatment's? Certainly was not expecting anything even remotely close to these (if anything, I would have expected hardball questions about research and hypotheses), but I'm sure at least part of the point of these questions is maintaining your composure and giving thoughtful answers. My advice is just be aware that more intense questions sometimes come up and not to panic if they do! Good luck to everyone interviewing!!

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/27/2018 at 7:56 PM, pettyaspraxis said:

For those of you who already went to your in person interviews, around how many people did each faculty member invite? And how many people were there interviewing total?

The only interview I got invited to is from 9-4:30 on 2/9 and apparently involves group and individual interviews. I am just slightly intimated by the prospect of group interviews with a large group of people because I am not the greatest at those types of interviews because I have a reserved personality and find it hard to take up space in large group settings. 

Is this Nova Southeastern? I have my interview there and am also concerned with the group interview.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had an interesting experience at my latest interview weekend. On the actual interview day, I had 15 minute sessions with the grad students in each lab and 15 minutes with several of the professors in my specific domain. For the grad student interviews,  most of it was me asking them questions. Almost every interview had the question of "why this school". Very few directly asked my about my thesis (I am currently a masters student applying for Phd). Only one professor directly asked me what assets I would bring to the school, however I tried to work it into every interview as I feel they make me a really strong candidate (teaching statistics classes, research in a bunch of different psych domains, and an applied graduate assistant job working with data analysis under the provost). Overall, I definitely over prepared. I did not need to know anything about the other professors research before hand.

One thing I would recommend is definitely becoming loose and "fun" around the current graduate students during the socials and dinners/ parties, especially if they have a say in the decisions. They are trying to see if they want to work with you for the next 4+ years. If you are a debbie downer it might sway their decision. Don't do anything you arnt comfortable doing but definitely be friendly and open to the weekend. 

I understand every school might be different, but this one was very relaxing and fun, even if it was my top choice and I really want to go there. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
14 hours ago, psycstudent2018 said:

Is this Nova Southeastern? I have my interview there and am also concerned with the group interview.

No, it isn't. I totally agree though, group interviews are not fun and I do not really see what they are supposed to do

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/28/2018 at 8:32 AM, 21ny14 said:

Did you have an opportunity to even ask other faculty questions specific to their work? I'm wondering how valuable and efficient for me to read articles from them or if I should just skim their abstracts. 

I wouldn't focus on it. I spent the night before trying to cram on their research, but honestly I feel like it ultimately wasn't necessary. My time with them was so short (30 minutes at most), and I did not list them on my application, so I don't think they expected me to know about their work.

One thing I would suggest is if you are going to ask about their work, do not ask them about their work with your POI, unless you know that they collaborate together. Instead, I would ask about any of their work that might in some way tie into your own interests. The reason that I suggest this is that others within my interview group asked things like, "So what are you currently working on with [POI]?" and the faculty were pretty thrown off by this, confused as to why they assumed that they had worked with the POI. It then proceeded to get a bit awkward (at least that is what I heard). Instead, I would ask something like, "So is your lab currently doing any work examining [research domain you are personally interested in]?" For me, this was culture. I found that asking them if they were working on incorporating any cross-cultural comparisons would often lead to an enjoyable conversation. :)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I received this question which I found kind of difficult to answer, so insight would be appreciated: "other than your match with my research interests, what do you find unique about our program?"  I talked about general training opportunities, but the honest answer was that the unique part about the school was the fact that I felt I had a good match research interest wise. I spent a lot of time preparing to interview with particular professors (looking at their work), and I looked at general school information, but I didn't have a "well, the fact that your training model is set up in x way" kind of answer prepared.  

Link to post
Share on other sites
34 minutes ago, LFPT03 said:

I received this question which I found kind of difficult to answer, so insight would be appreciated: "other than your match with my research interests, what do you find unique about our program?"  I talked about general training opportunities, but the honest answer was that the unique part about the school was the fact that I felt I had a good match research interest wise. I spent a lot of time preparing to interview with particular professors (looking at their work), and I looked at general school information, but I didn't have a "well, the fact that your training model is set up in x way" kind of answer prepared.  

I think training opportunities is a great answer, especially if you were able to give specifics. You could also have prefaced your answer by being honest and saying research match was a big contributing factor to your decision to apply. Aside from that, what else made you apply there? Is there collaboration potential among faculty that you foresee taking advantage of? Is the program located in an area that has a research population of interest easily accessible? Do faculty currently have grants you are interested in? Is there something about the culture of the program that is appealing? Maybe the way their labs are structured is ideal for you. Does the program emphasize certain values that you identify with? Just some things to think about if you follow up with them, or for future interviews.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/31/2018 at 1:33 PM, Psych2018 said:

Anyone willing to share their examples of what they said were strengths/weaknesses? I'm really struggling with this one.

'

I recently got this question at an interview, I think this is more of a behavior-based question. Strengths should be characteristics about yourself that can help with the work at the program you are interviewing at (i.e. are you resilient, hardworking, team-oriented, inquisitive...etc?). And weaknesses should be something that you can show that you have been working to overcome. Just one opinion though, YMMV.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 1/31/2018 at 1:33 PM, Psych2018 said:

Anyone willing to share their examples of what they said were strengths/weaknesses? I'm really struggling with this one.

'

(Disclaimer: psych is not my field, but this is a general question)

I said that my strength is my ability to learn and master technical skills on the fly (and then gave an example that pertains to my research experience). For a weakness, I said that I get pretty nervous giving presentations. I'd like to get to the point that I don't have to practice a GAZILLION times before hand in order to feel comfortable. And I then said that I was looking forward to improving that skill during the PhD program. 

A tip I was told is that the interviewer doesn't actually care that much about what you say your strengths and weaknesses are. They are really just trying to get a sense of whether you "know yourself" and can communicate it. 

Good luck!

Link to post
Share on other sites

I had multiple 30 minute interviews and each interview probably only had 3-5 questions from them, and 3-5 from me. Most were organic conversations stemming from those.

One thing I'd add to the previous posts is to be prepared for "What would your (future/potential) master's thesis be like?" Then after you reply, be prepared to answer how to design it, and how to overcome some of the obstacles there are when carrying out independent research.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hey, everyone. So, there are a ton of resources online that tell us what questions we may be asked at the interviews, but I've found myself worrying about what kind of questions I should be asking them. A friend of mine that is in grad school has been saying that the interview/visiting days aren't just to scope us out, but programs are also trying to sell themselves to us. I know that we should have questions going in, but I'm having a hard time getting over how perfect for me this school seems to be and thinking of questions. Do y'all have any go-to questions or advice?

Link to post
Share on other sites

My two cents and just a short anecdote: the last semester of my masters I was frantically searching for job and decided to sign up for something called the "placement center" at the I/O psychology professional conference (SIOP). The placement center is essentially 2 days of interviews. While at the conference you may get a call, you go to a designated area and interview- it's nonstop. I was fortunate enough to make it to the final round of interviews for a well-known consultation company, but this interview was special. I was invited to a nearby restaurant for breakfast, and I sat down next to 15 other candidates. These people were smarter, arguably more qualified, and more articulate than I, and in walks the CEO. I spent an hour listening to people talk about themselves as he asked questions; I decided not to follow suit and instead I asked him a question, one that made him think. At the end of the breakfast he came over to me and said "I really loved your question."  I got a job offer from the company a few weeks later. So...

Admissions committees are going to ask similar questions and get a lot of answers that are roughly the same. If you're personable, agreeable and confident you'll do well.

However, a question that makes them think, a thoughtful one, will always set you apart. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Hk328 said:

Hey, does anyone know if you're supposed to bring copies of your CV to an interview? I read somewhere that they'll ask for it sometimes, but I only saw it mentioned that 1 time. 

Hey, I've only been to one interview so far, and they did not ask for/need copies of my CV. But I think it's good to have it available (put a couple of copies in your padfolio, just in case).

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.