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Virtual Interviews - What would help you?


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Hi all! I am a current psychology Ph.D. student and am responsible for coordinating interview weekend for my program. Although I have coordinated these weekends in the past, this will be the first completely virtual weekend. As such, I'm trying to do a bit of reconnaissance in order to make sure we are best suiting the needs of our applicants. What would be most helpful for you during a virtual interview weekend? What would be your preferred format?

Each applicant will be doing one-on-one Zoom interviews with each faculty member, which will more or less exactly mimic how we handle faculty interviews in person. However, I'm struggling with how to best incorporate opportunities to speak with students. I know I learned so much about the program and current students' opinions during my drives to and from the airport and while walking around campus, but those opportunities won't be possible for this year's applicants. Would you prefer to meet one-on-one with a current student via Zoom? Or would you prefer a current student panel format where all of the applicants are invited to join the meeting at the same time? What about a larger session being split into breakout rooms where you "speed date" with current students? What about an optional virtual campus/facility tour? Our university's website doesn't have the best virtual tour in place already, so it is difficult for our applicants to explore campus through the website alone. 

Are there any other ideas you may have? I appreciate any suggestions and am sending positive vibes to all of you submitting applications this cycle!

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First of all, thank you for doing outreach with applicants to figure out what would work best. That is super awesome!

I think it's hard to know exactly what would be optimal, because it will be our first time attending virtual interviews. I do have some thoughts though. On interviews last year, my favorite parts were when I meet with an entire lab by myself. It was low pressure, and a great opportunity to gather a ton of information not just about the lab I was applying to, but other labs and the general program culture (I met with the lab I applied to, and another lab).

I personally could see group interviews with grad student panels being tough. For some people, holding their own even in person is tough in a group, and Zoom complicates that even further. I do like the "speed date" idea! That could be fun. It would also be super cool to hold a virtual campus tour, focused on the psych building and facilities like counseling center, etc. 

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2 hours ago, justacigar said:

First of all, thank you for doing outreach with applicants to figure out what would work best. That is super awesome!

I think it's hard to know exactly what would be optimal, because it will be our first time attending virtual interviews. I do have some thoughts though. On interviews last year, my favorite parts were when I meet with an entire lab by myself. It was low pressure, and a great opportunity to gather a ton of information not just about the lab I was applying to, but other labs and the general program culture (I met with the lab I applied to, and another lab).

I personally could see group interviews with grad student panels being tough. For some people, holding their own even in person is tough in a group, and Zoom complicates that even further. I do like the "speed date" idea! That could be fun. It would also be super cool to hold a virtual campus tour, focused on the psych building and facilities like counseling center, etc. 

The lab idea is great! We haven't done anything like that in the past, but it definitely would have been helpful when I was going through the process. Thank you for your thoughts!

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I would consider matching people up with current grad students through email instead of zoom meetings. I get the need to do zoom meetings with faculty- but zoom fatigue is real (as al of us in clinical programs doing telehealth, on top of likely also taking &/or teaching virtual classes, right now know). I wonder if it wouldn't be less stressful and fatiguing to be able to exchange emails with a current grad student, and would more closely mimic the conversation that occurs between potential students and current students who are matched up together for hosting when in-person interview days are occurring?

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I agree with justacigar that group conversations over Zoom are often really awkward, and having the added stress of knowing that it's part of your interview weekend wouldn't help. I personally love the idea of a campus/facility tour. I don't want to make my decision of where I'm going based on location, but getting a feel for the school's vibe is important for me before I move somewhere. As someone applying this year, what I'm most sad about missing because of virtual interviews is the social aspect of the interview. I would really have enjoyed being able to talk to grad students and other applicants through a dinner, staying with someone, or in the random downtime. I don't think there's a great way to mimic this virtually, but possibly something like a text chat channel? Especially if you're doing a lot of 1:1 interviews, it would be nice to have a connection to the other people participating in the weekend.

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I would also be careful about the format of Zoom interviews, especially group sessions, which are especially exhausting. Less is more there! I like the idea of meeting with grad students, but I believe that one-at-a-time enables more focused conversation. Basically, I want to be thinking about the interview itself and not be distracted by its format, particularly given what's at stake.

I also support some means of virtually touring the department and other relevant areas! I'd like to have a more concrete idea of where I'll potentially be spending the next 5+ years.

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16 hours ago, PsyZei said:

I would consider matching people up with current grad students through email instead of zoom meetings. I get the need to do zoom meetings with faculty- but zoom fatigue is real (as al of us in clinical programs doing telehealth, on top of likely also taking &/or teaching virtual classes, right now know). I wonder if it wouldn't be less stressful and fatiguing to be able to exchange emails with a current grad student, and would more closely mimic the conversation that occurs between potential students and current students who are matched up together for hosting when in-person interview days are occurring?

I definitely understand the fatigue. Our program chair is specified that we have to have some Zoom component with the applicants and grad students, though, but I'll be sure we keep this in mind. Less is probably more. 

5 hours ago, EmpatheticMastermind said:

I agree with justacigar that group conversations over Zoom are often really awkward, and having the added stress of knowing that it's part of your interview weekend wouldn't help. I personally love the idea of a campus/facility tour. I don't want to make my decision of where I'm going based on location, but getting a feel for the school's vibe is important for me before I move somewhere. As someone applying this year, what I'm most sad about missing because of virtual interviews is the social aspect of the interview. I would really have enjoyed being able to talk to grad students and other applicants through a dinner, staying with someone, or in the random downtime. I don't think there's a great way to mimic this virtually, but possibly something like a text chat channel? Especially if you're doing a lot of 1:1 interviews, it would be nice to have a connection to the other people participating in the weekend.

That's an interesting idea. I'll look into it. Thank you!

2 hours ago, EileanDonan said:

I would also be careful about the format of Zoom interviews, especially group sessions, which are especially exhausting. Less is more there! I like the idea of meeting with grad students, but I believe that one-at-a-time enables more focused conversation. Basically, I want to be thinking about the interview itself and not be distracted by its format, particularly given what's at stake.

I also support some means of virtually touring the department and other relevant areas! I'd like to have a more concrete idea of where I'll potentially be spending the next 5+ years.

Yeah, I know others helping with the week are urging a group format but I've always been partial to one-on-one and you all are definitely helping to confirm that. 

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On 11/15/2020 at 1:25 AM, PsychInterviews2021 said:

I definitely understand the fatigue. Our program chair is specified that we have to have some Zoom component with the applicants and grad students, though, but I'll be sure we keep this in mind. Less is probably more. 

That's an interesting idea. I'll look into it. Thank you!

Yeah, I know others helping with the week are urging a group format but I've always been partial to one-on-one and you all are definitely helping to confirm that. 

Being an international student, I did video interviews before it was cool :)

The advice given above is spot on. One-on-one interviews are pretty close to the in-person ones and you can still get a good rapport with people that way. I also did panel interviews but with only two profs (they were in the same room, pre-COVID) and that was ok I guess. More than two people and it gets quite hectic (especially over zoom).

I recently had an online meet-and-greet experience with students from my current master's - the group format was really bad for some of us. Not everyone was comfortable speaking up and I felt people were way more formal and less willing to ask anything other than polite questions. 

I realize that it can get a bit nightmarish to organize 1:1 instead of groups, but your applicants will definitely appreciate it and it will be an overall better experience for everyone involved.

One thing that I've seen previously is that labs organize their own day (so the PI has a 1:1 with the applicant, then one or two grad students, maybe another prof). Also, adding in a grad student from a different lab would really help to get a more objective perspective on things. 

Thank you for putting in the time and effort to optimize this experience for your applicants, hope it all goes smoothly! :)

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On 11/13/2020 at 7:13 PM, PsychInterviews2021 said:

Hi all! I am a current psychology Ph.D. student and am responsible for coordinating interview weekend for my program. Although I have coordinated these weekends in the past, this will be the first completely virtual weekend. As such, I'm trying to do a bit of reconnaissance in order to make sure we are best suiting the needs of our applicants. What would be most helpful for you during a virtual interview weekend? What would be your preferred format?

Each applicant will be doing one-on-one Zoom interviews with each faculty member, which will more or less exactly mimic how we handle faculty interviews in person. However, I'm struggling with how to best incorporate opportunities to speak with students. I know I learned so much about the program and current students' opinions during my drives to and from the airport and while walking around campus, but those opportunities won't be possible for this year's applicants. Would you prefer to meet one-on-one with a current student via Zoom? Or would you prefer a current student panel format where all of the applicants are invited to join the meeting at the same time? What about a larger session being split into breakout rooms where you "speed date" with current students? What about an optional virtual campus/facility tour? Our university's website doesn't have the best virtual tour in place already, so it is difficult for our applicants to explore campus through the website alone. 

Are there any other ideas you may have? I appreciate any suggestions and am sending positive vibes to all of you submitting applications this cycle!

Thanks for posting this! I was literally going to ask people today what they thought virtual interviews would be like....because lets face it... we're going to have virtual interviews. I think when it comes to the students, it could be beneficial to meet with a group of students for a student panel. It doesn't have to necessarily be all of them or even a lot, but a group of 3-5 phd students would be helpful especially if they have different experiences/different insight. I think a virtual campus tour is a must. Even if it's pre recorded and maybe available before the meeting and also available to keep. 

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