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Virtual interviews, things to think about, what we've heard and resources to prepare


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I am starting this thread to start the discussion of interviews in a Covid world. I have personally scoured the internet and numerous other forums looking for advice and what schools are saying in regards to their interview plans and this is what I have found so far. 

I received this notice from Stanford's Bioscience admissions when I submitted my application "During the week of January 11, 2021, the committees will start to contact applicants who have been selected for an interview.  The selected applicants will be invited to interview via Zoom and participate in programming with faculty and current students. Our interview dates are currently set for Wednesday, March 3 through Saturday, March 6, 2021, but may shift. This is our only interview session. All applicants will be notified of the decision on their application by the end of January."  

I have not seen any of my other programs change their websites yet to reflect how they will be conducting interviews but I assume many will follow suit. 

 

For resources I recommend listening to a Podcast I listen to for many of my Grad school related questions, its called "Hello PhD" their most recent episode 146: Ace your virtual Graduate school interview with Dr. Beth Bowman. This episodes they have a discussion with Dr. Beth Bowman, she is the assistant director of graduate programs at Vanderbilt University. They do go into how time zones would work and how to prepare. Their previous episodes do go into general interview prep as well as a vast amount of other topics. 

As much as I want to be able to meet the professors personally I am glad that schools are thinking about peoples safety. My only thing I do worry about is what it will be like trying to choose a school that maybe we never got to visit and how we can choose where we will be living and working for the next several years. 

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Thanks for this post! I've definitely been wondering how interviews will be going for this application cycle. I've applied before for Fall 2019 admission and was invited for two interviews (rejected from one, waitlisted on the other) and was unfortunately not given an offer. However, when I was attending those interviews, there was so much more than just the interviews that were important - such as attending info sessions, meeting departmental faculty and doctoral students, going on tours of the campus, lunches, and so much more. It's easy to see them just conducting the actual interviews online over Zoom, but how are they going to conduct the other aspects of the visit online? I'm curious to see what will happen, haha! I haven't heard anything from my schools this cycle yet.

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I attended virtual open houses with Pitt BioSci and JHU School of Public Health where they told us that interviews will be completely virtual. Pitt had a very organized plan where you'll essentially have a full day on Zoom doing all the traditional things like info sessions, meeting faculty, and all that jazz. They said we'd do small group interviews and then hop into breakout rooms to talk to the PIs we're interested in from our applications. I can definitely see a lot of people suffering from Zoom fatigue (if we aren't already from classes) but at least they're trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. Now to cross my fingers and hope to see some interview invitations by the beginning of the new year...

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To be completely honest, it will definitely be harder to get a full picture and feel for a school over zoom interviews. That being said, the students and faculty putting together the virtual recruitment events are going to be putting a lot of time and effort into trying to make it the best experience possible, and including lots of more low-key non-interview-based events, while balancing zoom fatigue. When it comes to getting a good picture of what doing you PhD at a particular institution is actually like, current students are still going to be your best resource - and the vast majority will be happy to go out of your way to help you make an informed decision.

I'm more than happy to give any and all perspective if anyone wants. I've been at Stanford Biosciences for a year and a half so I have both pre- and during- COVID perspectives on the program and community. I also interviewed at 8 places when I applied, so I have lots of interview perspective I can give on other schools as well. Just shoot me a DM. 

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I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but if you get an offer, do most schools expect a decision around the same time? I'm mainly curious because I'd like to visit the areas of where I'm accepted before making a decision since I won't have that option when interviewing. But I'd need time to visit those places, and if universities take time offering a spot while others expect a decision before that happens, that could ruin my plans 😕 

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On 12/11/2020 at 5:37 PM, StemCells4Lyfe said:

I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but if you get an offer, do most schools expect a decision around the same time? I'm mainly curious because I'd like to visit the areas of where I'm accepted before making a decision since I won't have that option when interviewing. But I'd need time to visit those places, and if universities take time offering a spot while others expect a decision before that happens, that could ruin my plans 😕 

Essentially all US grad school offers have the same reply deadline from you (April 15th). There are exceptions, but generally that's the national deadline.

https://cgsnet.org/april-15-resolution

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 12/2/2020 at 5:21 PM, queerorpheus said:

I attended virtual open houses with Pitt BioSci and JHU School of Public Health where they told us that interviews will be completely virtual. Pitt had a very organized plan where you'll essentially have a full day on Zoom doing all the traditional things like info sessions, meeting faculty, and all that jazz. They said we'd do small group interviews and then hop into breakout rooms to talk to the PIs we're interested in from our applications. I can definitely see a lot of people suffering from Zoom fatigue (if we aren't already from classes) but at least they're trying to maintain some sense of normalcy. Now to cross my fingers and hope to see some interview invitations by the beginning of the new year...

Interesting about Bloomberg SPH going virtual.  Back in 2011 when my ex got admitted her interview was over the phone.  

As an aside, Zoom fatigue is real... but funny considering the popularity of FaceTime and Duo and that Skype has been around forever.  My courses were virtual this last spring semester but it was more like a Blackboard experience.  I only Zoomed twice and it didn't go so well.   

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On 12/11/2020 at 5:37 PM, StemCells4Lyfe said:

I'm probably getting ahead of myself, but if you get an offer, do most schools expect a decision around the same time? I'm mainly curious because I'd like to visit the areas of where I'm accepted before making a decision since I won't have that option when interviewing. But I'd need time to visit those places, and if universities take time offering a spot while others expect a decision before that happens, that could ruin my plans 😕 

No, but some programs might push you into that direction.  The general agreement amongst graduate programs is to give until April 15th.  One thing to consider is that the longer you wait the longer someone on the waitlist is also waiting.  I agree 100% with visiting the campus prior to making decisions, though.  

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Hi all. I'm feeling a bit nervous for my interviews but mostly excited!

I found this great videocast from the NIH all about grad school interviews:https://videocast.nih.gov/watch=35325

Some of it will be less relevant with interviews being virtual this year (eg tips on traveling or how to act when out to dinner or at the bars with current students), but the advice relating to faculty one-on-one interviews should still hold true. There's good examples of what kinds of questions faculty (or even students) might ask us, and examples of what kind of questions might be good for us to ask the faculty and students.

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Does anyone have any input of what to wear? as in how formal your clothes should be for interviews and such? It's gonna be strange since things like shoes and pants won't really matter over zoom.

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3 hours ago, calizab said:

Does anyone have any input of what to wear? as in how formal your clothes should be for interviews and such? It's gonna be strange since things like shoes and pants won't really matter over zoom.

From the tips I have seen for interviews I would say business casual is the safest bet. No need to go totally formal but you also want to make a good impression and not show up wearing sweats!

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19 minutes ago, prospective_molbio said:

For how long do y'all think we should prepare to talk about our research in the interview? I imagine that it would also vary depending on how long the actual interview will be (Some of mines are 30 min, some 45, some 1 hr...)

I've only gotten one interview schedule so far, and for each faculty I have 20 minutes. So between both of our research thats not a lot of time. I'm preparing a nice little elevator speech to give an overview of my research and then preparing some more in depth details for faculty asking questions and other interviews that are longer!

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Any Columbia Neurobiology & Behavior PhD program interviewees here? I'm going for the Feb interview, but really curious how the Jan interviews might go. If anyone is going to the Jan interview, and wouldn't mind keeping in contact and discuss about interviews for this program or other schools, please message me!

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5 hours ago, prospective_molbio said:

For how long do y'all think we should prepare to talk about our research in the interview? I imagine that it would also vary depending on how long the actual interview will be (Some of mines are 30 min, some 45, some 1 hr...)

I would say no more than 2-3 minute summary. Then you can discuss it further with the interviewer. It's supposed to be a conversation, not a presentation.

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6 hours ago, prospective_molbio said:

For how long do y'all think we should prepare to talk about our research in the interview? I imagine that it would also vary depending on how long the actual interview will be (Some of mines are 30 min, some 45, some 1 hr...)

I️'d prepare for a few diff time lengths. Some may want a brief 1-2 min overview at first, and then ask you to go deeper into specifics. I️ think it's best to be prepared to talk about it at a very broad level (especially if you're talking to someone who may not be familiar with your specific field), and also be comfortable discussing the specifics.

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On 1/4/2021 at 3:57 PM, calizab said:

Does anyone have any input of what to wear? as in how formal your clothes should be for interviews and such? It's gonna be strange since things like shoes and pants won't really matter over zoom.

I'm going business casual, but not fully formal. I got a blazer and am wearing a turtleneck top under it for the interview day, and then I'm planning to just wear a nice blouse for panels. I'm still planning on wearing nice pants too, just so I can feel confident and powerful lol. I heard someone say to at least wear a nice pair of jeans in case you need to get up for whatever reason during the interview.

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42 minutes ago, queerorpheus said:

I'm going business casual, but not fully formal. I got a blazer and am wearing a turtleneck top under it for the interview day, and then I'm planning to just wear a nice blouse for panels. I'm still planning on wearing nice pants too, just so I can feel confident and powerful lol. I heard someone say to at least wear a nice pair of jeans in case you need to get up for whatever reason during the interview.

yeah I️ don't own a single business casual thing (besides some nice pants), so I'm gonna have to buy a blazer and blouse and stuff. I️ guess this is a good excuse for some online shopping haha

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Are you guys planning to have some powerpoint slides / figures to show during your interviews? I am not sure if I should. I've received conflicting advice.... some people told me that interviews are suposed to be like conversations, so it is not advised to have any slides or anything whereas others say it will be helpful to get your points across.

I am leaning towards not having any, but idk if that may make me look unprepared/less prepared than other people getting interviewed if they do have them

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37 minutes ago, prospective_molbio said:

Are you guys planning to have some powerpoint slides / figures to show during your interviews? I am not sure if I should. I've received conflicting advice.... some people told me that interviews are suposed to be like conversations, so it is not advised to have any slides or anything whereas others say it will be helpful to get your points across.

I am leaning towards not having any, but idk if that may make me look unprepared/less prepared than other people getting interviewed if they do have them

I'm not planning on having any slides or figures. I've also heard the bit about interviews being more like conversations, and from my friends who have interviewed already it seems like interviewers are more interested in the general trends of your data rather than specific details that a figure would show. 

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On 1/6/2021 at 11:21 AM, calizab said:

yeah I️ don't own a single business casual thing (besides some nice pants), so I'm gonna have to buy a blazer and blouse and stuff. I️ guess this is a good excuse for some online shopping haha

I'm in no way trying to take the joy of online shopping away from you, but just dropping in to say that when I did interviews (in person) I didn't wear any "business casual", and still to this day do not own a blazer lol. My go-to was knitted/sweater dresses in muted colors. I interviewed with 4 schools and was probably among the least dressed up for all of them. Ended up with offers from all 4 🤷‍♀️

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1 hour ago, DRMF said:

away from you, but just dropping in to say that when I did interviews (in person) I didn't wear any "business casual", and still to this day do not own a blazer lol. My go-to was knitted/sweater dresses in muted colors. I interviewed with 4 schools and was probably among the least dressed up for all of them. Ended up with offers from all 4 🤷‍♀️

Thanks for this! Very reassuring since I was just planning to wear a sweater and I keep hearing people talk about blazers and I really wasn’t in the mood of spending more money than I already have haha 

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2 hours ago, DRMF said:

I'm in no way trying to take the joy of online shopping away from you, but just dropping in to say that when I did interviews (in person) I didn't wear any "business casual", and still to this day do not own a blazer lol. My go-to was knitted/sweater dresses in muted colors. I interviewed with 4 schools and was probably among the least dressed up for all of them. Ended up with offers from all 4 🤷‍♀️

Technically, a blazer would make it “business professional”. A nice blouse with a sweater is “business casual”.

in the end (especially since we are virtual) I don’t imagine what you wear will really make a big impact, unless of course you show up to the zoom looking disheveled and wearing only a tshirt! Wear what is most comfortable.

you might even get “instructions” from the program on what to wear.. for my interview last week, I was advised to wear business casual for the more informal sections (eg student panels) but business professional on the day I was interviewing with faculty.

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