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PH.D Interview questions you received and some responses

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Hi Everyone,

With the 2019 application cycle ending, I wanted to get everyone's input on how interviews went with faculty, POI, and current Students. I interviewed 2 times this cycle and got some great insight. I am interested in hearing about successful interviews and how an applicant answered a specific challenging question or a question on research. In addition, I asked for feedback from the 2 programs and got some great critical feedback to improve my interview skills for the next cycle.

I interviewed for:

Denver University (PSYD)- This was the strangest interview by far. I was asked a lot of questions about my current enrollment, thoughts about art, and less about my experience, skills, and why I want to be in the program.

Some example questions were:

-What is a piece of art that impacted your life in the last five years?

-Dead or alive, three people you would want to have dinner with?

-Teach me something I do not know

I felt unprepared for these type of abstract questions, especially coming from a clinical psychology research program.  

Texas Tech University (Ph.D- Counseling Psychology)

this interview was very extensive. I spent a total of 4 hours with the POI interviewing with her and discussing research. In addition, I interviewed with 6 other faculty members.

-ultimately, i felt I was close to getting into the program but the POI's feedback explained that I did not ask questions about the other faculties research interest. 

 

Please reply with your experiences.

 

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I didn't have any fun questions from PIs, but in a student-led interview the interviewers asked me "what job (in the non-helping professions) i'd pursue if not psychology?". i said something that'd make a lot of money

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A distinguished professor asked where I applied to, and whether I was invited.

A grad student from a different school did, too. Asked if I was invited to 'a lot' of schools. Be prepared to justify your other applications, and hopefully you have a good response if you weren't invited to many places.

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4 minutes ago, 1|]010ls10o said:

A distinguished professor asked where I applied to, and whether I was invited.

A grad student from a different school did, too. Asked if I was invited to 'a lot' of schools. Be prepared to justify your other applications, and hopefully you have a good response if you weren't invited to many places.

I had this happen to me too. I've been told that this is to see if you applied to random schools or if you have an actual idea of your research interests.

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  • Counseling Phd Interview questions:
    • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?**
    • What questions do you have for me?**
    • Why Counseling Psychology and not Clinical?
    • Can you explain your undergraduate thesis?
    • Why our program? Why not others?
    • What do you want to do in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?**
    • Can you tell me about your publications?

 

  • Clinical PhD Interview questions:
    • Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?**
    • What questions do you have for me?**
    • What would your dissertation be if you were accepted here? Explain hypothesis, research design, and expected analyses (all in one go!).
    • Detailed, specific questions about one line on my CV.
    • How would you add to diversity or serving underserved populations if you were accepted here?
    • What connected you to this one particular clinical experience? What was your role?
    • Do you know what transference and countertransference mean? If a patient were in therapy with you and there were signs of countertransference, what would you do?#

These were the most memorable! :)

**I was asked this for two programs.

#can we not? thanks byeee.

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On 3/23/2019 at 1:23 PM, 1|]010ls10o said:

A distinguished professor asked where I applied to, and whether I was invited.

A grad student from a different school did, too. Asked if I was invited to 'a lot' of schools. Be prepared to justify your other applications, and hopefully you have a good response if you weren't invited to many places.

Yes, this. I had a distinguished professor drill me on where else I applied and then put them all down hen I finally, reluctantly, told her. I felt I had to defend and justify my choices. I had others ask where I applied, but usually with a much nicer, “if you feel comfortable sharing”.

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3 hours ago, Psyhopeful said:

Yes, this. I had a distinguished professor drill me on where else I applied and then put them all down hen I finally, reluctantly, told her. I felt I had to defend and justify my choices. I had others ask where I applied, but usually with a much nicer, “if you feel comfortable sharing”.

Why would they care so much about the other places you applied to? That just feels a little unprofessional 

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4 hours ago, paraent said:

curious what's the downside of disclosure?

If you're talking about telling the professor where you applied, the only downside may be if you only applied to ivy leagues because they're ivy leagues and not based on research interest (mainly PhD focused). Kind of shows if you have a focused interest or if you're just applying to apply type of thing.

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During a group interview I was asked , "What is the one thing you were hoping no one would ask you today?" 😱

 

That really threw me for a loop and there was long silence haha.  I finally came up being worried that I would be asked specific research design questions because I have been out of school for awhile and will need to brush up on my research design/SPSS/R skills (obviously not that exact wording haha). Maybe not the best answer to highlight my lack of recent  research experience...

 

I got waitlisted. 

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I didn't get any particularly unusual questions - mostly why I was pursuing a PhD, what my goals were after the program, what my research interests are and why I thought they fit with that professor, my previous research experience, previous professional experience, and I got a couple of programs which asked why counseling psych vs clinical, and why I was attracted to their training model.  One program had two practical application sections of the interview, so as a group we had to decide on an empirical study and design in about 30 mins then present it, and the other as a pair we had to watch a client video and develop a case conceptualization and a basic treatment plan proposal for the client. 

The things that I found most important were to be as honest and authentic as possible, even when the questions were hard and uncomfortable, and to have lots of questions for everyone I met - even if it was just a basic question about what they think makes the program unique or what they like best about teaching/researching - as this showed my interest in the program, it helped to keep conversation flowing rather than an awkward silence, and it helped me to get more information to understand if this place would really be the best fit for me.  I found that the places I felt like I could be happiest were the places where we lost track of time in each interview and the conversations flowed most naturally because those places made me feel most welcome and most like I could ask for help/insight/advice/collaboration with anyone in the department, not just my primary advisor. 

Another common question I asked was about collaboration opportunities with multiple faculty members as I wanted a department that encouraged collaboration and where I could learn from a lot of different perspectives and styles because a doc program is one of the few opportunities I will ever have where I have multiple experts in research available to me all in one place to be able to observe and learn from. 

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questions i remember from my interviews:

- what questions do you have for me? (have questions!!!)

- what are your research interests? (ideally you should know this or have an idea of this). Don't memorize, be honest. what do you want to study under your mentor's supervision?

- what are your greatest areas of improvement/weakness? (do not say, perfectionist. please, i beg you!). also, say a sentence or two on how you are dealing with the aforementioned weakness.

- what are your strengths? (know them, give reasonable examples)

- why did you apply to this program (i focused on why i applied to my mentor when I answered this and said a few things about why i liked the program as a whole).

- do you have any questions about our clinical training? (have questions!!)

- what skills are you hoping to develop in this program? (be honest!). I said statistics skills and to become more confident about my research skills. 

 

they know that you aren't perfect. be real, be yourself and be personable. this does not mean you should throw all your weaknesses in their face. 

 

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On 4/1/2019 at 4:54 PM, imonfire98 said:

questions i remember from my interviews:

- what questions do you have for me? (have questions!!!)

- - what are your greatest areas of improvement/weakness? (do not say, perfectionist. please, i beg you!). also, say a sentence or two on how you are dealing with the aforementioned weakness.

- what are your strengths? (know them, give reasonable examples)

 

What did you guys say for these questions? I had a PI (the person I applied to) say she reserved the second interview just for all my questions. I tried asking her to ask me questions, but she insisted on having me ask her questions. The first two interviews I had with her (phone, then 1st in-person) were all conversational. Second wasn't natural at all. Did you guys just go down a list of questions that were posted here?

What did you guys say for strengths/weaknesses? (preferably for people who were accepted to programs)

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3 hours ago, 1|]010ls10o said:

What did you guys say for these questions? I had a PI (the person I applied to) say she reserved the second interview just for all my questions. I tried asking her to ask me questions, but she insisted on having me ask her questions. The first two interviews I had with her (phone, then 1st in-person) were all conversational. Second wasn't natural at all. Did you guys just go down a list of questions that were posted here?

What did you guys say for strengths/weaknesses? (preferably for people who were accepted to programs)

I came in to each interview with a list of questions for each person that I was interviewing with.  Most of the time, I tried to make my questions conversational, and would try to dovetail off of things we already mentioned in the interview, and sometimes if I had limited time and several important questions that I really wanted answered, I just went down through the list to make sure I fit them in.  The questions were things that would be helpful in determining if the program is the right fit - mentorship/communication style questions for POI, collaboration opportunities and general program questions for other professors, practicum questions for training director, and lifestyle/working with POI questions for students.  I asked a lot of the same questions for each program to be able to compare apples to apples between programs, but some questions were definitely program specific (one program had an APA site visit coming up in a couple of months and I wanted to ask about the history of APA accreditation and therefore likelihood of reaccreditation - found out they had been continuously accredited for 40 years so I felt good that reaccreditation was pretty likely).

I was brutally honest about my areas for growth.  One program specifically asked about my weakness in the clinical realm, and I said treatment planning because in my previous experience I had to create a set treatment plan by session 3 and I struggled to stick to it after session 5 or 6 because I couldn't figure out how to make them reasonably flexible to adjust to changing client needs.  Programs that asked about general weaknesses, I mentioned not having any experience with qual or mixed methods research, and that I had no experience yet seeing a quant study through from start to finish (I always joined a team part way through the process and never got to see from beginning to end).  Strengths typically depended upon the day and what came to mind based upon the prior conversation - one program that particularly valued advocacy I spoke about my experience working in government and how that knowledge would make me an excellent advocate, and another program I talked about my persistence because it's taken multiple cycles and many little steps to finally get accepted into a program.  Being able to evaluate your areas for growth is a key skill to be successful in graduate school and in your career as a psychologist, so that question is a good way for programs to figure out if you can do that or not - it's not a perfunctory question.

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14 hours ago, 1|]010ls10o said:

What did you guys say for these questions? I had a PI (the person I applied to) say she reserved the second interview just for all my questions. I tried asking her to ask me questions, but she insisted on having me ask her questions. The first two interviews I had with her (phone, then 1st in-person) were all conversational. Second wasn't natural at all. Did you guys just go down a list of questions that were posted here?

What did you guys say for strengths/weaknesses? (preferably for people who were accepted to programs)

I dont think that having the 'right' strength/weakness is what gets you in. remember, you want to portray an accurate image of yourself. if you say something is your strength/weakness just to get in, then what happens after you get in and have to work with them for 5-7 years? if you arent honest in your interview, be ready to pretend for the next few years. 

 

in response to your question,  i would say that you should think about your weaknesses first (if you have a hard time- ask your friends, lab professors, group members) for areas that they think you can improve. You only need one major weakness honestly. then for your strengths, sit and think about the areas that you receive the most commendation in. :)

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