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Skype Interviews before Applications


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I was hoping to gain some insight on any tips and tricks for Skype interviews before application submissions.

I am applying to PhD's this cycle for Fall 2020 admission (fingers crossed!) in the field of Cognitive Psychology, Neuroscience, Psychology with a focus in memory studies, etc. and have been lucky enough to secure some Skype chats with potential PI's to talk about overlapping interest, my background, and other PhD related topics of conversation. Since I have not applied yet and that is a few months out, does anyone have any tips for what to talk about or ask during these meetings? How formally should I prepare? Keep it more laid back to show how I could fit into their lab culture or professional to show more of my skills and technical abilities?


Any advice would be appreciated!



Morgan Glover

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  • 2 months later...

Hey, I've done a few of these before and they really vary by PI!

In some cases, the moment you connect the PI will start talking about their research projects, why they think it's interesting etc - basically trying to sell the PhD to you. For these ones, mine ended up going for over an hour even though we had agreed 15 minutes, so make sure you have a huge block of time around the interview. The main goal for you is to keep up with conversation, ask relevant questions about the research, and just build a good rapport. 

Other Skype talks can be more awkward, where the PI hasn't prepared anything and expects you to start the ball rolling after you connect. In that case you'll want to have a couple of open questions you can ask cold, and then ask more based on however they answer. You might also want to spend a bit of time talking about yourself (e.g. your experience, your goals). If they're not trying to sell their project/institution to you then they might be expecting you to sell your application to them instead. These will hit more on the 15-20min mark and it can be awkward even stretching it out that far. 15 minutes can be a very long time in this case. 

Aside from research/field-specific questions, I usually asked about (i) any available professional development opportunities, like workshops on how to apply for postdocs, and (ii) how their lab/group would fit my own style, where I prefer more independence and freedom than most, or if they tend to be more prescriptive in what students do. 

Remember that you're vetting them just as much as they're vetting you! My second question definitely had the chance to go "wrong", but if they couldn't accommodate my research style then I couldn't do a PhD under them. 

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