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Computer Science - Interview


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I received an interview from a graduate school that is my top choice from a potential adviser. What kinds of questions can I be expected to be asked during the interview? What kinds of questions should I ask during the interview and how in depth should I be familiar with the papers that my potential adviser has published? It will be a phone interview. Also, what are the advisers looking for in potential applicants and what sort of metrics do you use to gauge you? Should I discuss previous research (even if it is unrelated to my research area)? Any other helpful or insightful advice is welcomed. Thanks!

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Well, it depends. Have you been admitted already or is this phone interview part of the admissions process?

Already Admitted:

Typically these are very informal. When I had one of these calls it was with a Professor who wanted to welcome me to the department and talk a little bit more about his research. We talked about my prior research (again, informal and no grilling) and potential projects I can work on.

I asked questions about interdisciplinary research and how easy/hard it would be to start collaborative research projects with industry, national labs and other institutions.

Waiting for Admission:

This conversation will almost exclusively be about your research experience and publications (if any). If you have lots of research then they will most likely select a handful of projects to talk about and ask you to explain them. Your explanation may lead to more technical questions. If you have publications they will ask what your contributions were. After these you may get questions about future direction like: "If you are admitted what could be your first project?"

These questions will vary quite a bit based on the interviewer's style. You should always assume the worst case and aim to answer very specific, in-depth questions about your background.

I can't really suggest questions you should ask.... the point is to ask anything you want answered. Obviously funding and research opportunities are high on the list. I was interested in collaborative projects so I asked about those opportunities.

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Thanks for the reply and perspective. I am unsure of whether or not I have been admitted to the program. I was invited to an invitation only visit where I would have had the opportunity to explore the research labs, talk to graduate students and talk to any professors of my choosing (there was no mention about interviews). The trip would have been fully funded, but I wasn't able to attend since it was in the middle of the week on such a short notice. I received an email that stated I had an interview with a professor after the fact that I couldn't attend. Based upon the initial email it is an interview to discuss my research interest. The professor and I seem to be a solid match, based upon the research he does. I was trying to get a feel for what I might ought to expect going in.

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