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Best interview advice you have!


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Hi Everyone, 


I wanted to start a forum where everyone gives their best interview advice. 


Over the phone? In person? Skype?  --- which is the best?


What to wear? What to know? What to say? 



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Here is a few replies I came up with from other topics in the Interviews forum:


Know you. Know the program.

Be able to speak about your experience (the CV stuff). Be able to talk about your research interests, career plans (SOP). Be able to discuss why you chose that particular program and with whom you'd like to work.

Be sure to have some questions for them.

Honestly, my interviews were all entirely different. There's no great way to prepare.

The usually just want to get a feel for you. The interview means they are interested. Don't stress.

Good luck.



I've never had a Skype interview, so I don't know how much help I can be :-). I'd still prepare notes and have them with me- questions to ask, etc.- and make sure that I am still dressed professionally and that my background is professional. I'd probably practice a bit with the camera in my computer to see what I look like (and whatever is in the background). I'd also probably light a candle for relaxation purposes!


Good luck!



Be prepared with questions you want to ask them - this is probably the question I prepare for the most ("What questions do you have for me?"), because I want to sound like I'm familiar with their work, the university, the department, and what grad life entails in general. I've only had two interviews so far, but both of them lead with this question.



You should be prepared ask the potential advisor what CURRENT and UPCOMING research projects they have in mind.  This is one of the most important question you can ask as an applicant.  



I'm sure people who've gotten interview offers or are hoping for them are planning what to say, and what to do to make a good impression. However, not everything will happen the way you want it to. Last year, I went on three interview weekends, and unfavorable scenarios happened. Let's have a compilation of the scenarios and how to overcome it for those extra cautious people. Basically, upon reading these, realize that it can't get worse, but you have a way to overcome it and not lose your head in the middle of the interview. Yay not losing your head!


Bad scenario: I went to an interview in the south of US, having lived and pursued two degrees in the Northeast. The interview was in February. I know I have pollen allergies, but decided not to bring it on the visit since, there's no flowers blooming that early. Wrong. The minute I landed, I started sneezing. I was pulling through it ok, until my third interview of the day (next to last one) during which I sneezed and blood came out. Cue my interviewer's horrified face at my sudden nose bleed. There was still 15 mins of the 20 min interview left.

What I did: I quickly grabbed tissues from my pocket (pre-prepared, yay!) and held it to my nose. I asked him if he wanted to continue. He agreed, and we finished the interview with me speaking in a slightly nasally voice. (Feel free to laugh, I'm laughing =D) Luckily it stopped before my next interview. After the weekend, I sent an email apologizing to the interviewer for scaring him. He sent back an email laughing it off. Yay

Bad scenario: I had sent the interview weekend coordinator a list of POI's I would like to talk to. When I got my syllabus, half the people were not even close to my research interest. (They were in HIV stuff, I was interested in water-borne diseases) 

What I did: I'm still not sure if I handled this right. I had some questions about the general program that I asked them. I asked a little on their research (I looked up some of their work). But I tried to steer the conversation to MY experience and how I could benefit their department. Feel free to comment on what I could have done better. Maybe we could generate a better set of questions to ask an interview who's not your POI?

Bad scenario: A POI I really wanted to interview with at the interview weekend. Backed out an hour before all the events were about to start. The coordinator asked me to meet with a random professor. The interview was awkward at the beginning, since he wasn't expecting me as well.

What I did: Ease the tension with a light joke. He laughed, and then with a more relaxed atmosphere, I asked him how he wanted to get started, did he want me to talk about myself. Delighted at my giving him an out, he said sure and we talked about my research for the full time. Also, I had been carrying extra copies of my CV just in case, so I was able to pass them to him and he could generate questions as we went. 


Bad scenario: I really liked the work of this POI and had a lot of questions to ask him. Unfortunately, he's a bit of a curmudgeon. Upon asking him about X project. He interjected really quickly and said he wasn't doing that anymore (I was confused since the paper I was citing was from 2011). I then asked him about his other projects, and he gave extremely curt answers (ie. Not sure. Yes. No. Ask someone else.) I asked him if he wanted to know more about my research. He said No.

What I did: Yeah, I really don't think I handled this well. The interview ended awkwardly, and I'm pretty sure I failed to make a positive impression. So perhaps, I need to think of a good way to end a horrible interview on a good note. 

I hope this doesn't make anyone more nervous about upcoming invites. >.<



i had my first skype interview this application season. my best advice is to PRACTICE! not just what you say, but what you're wearing, what's behind you, and so on. my mom gave me recommendations about how certain colors looked on her computer and stuff like that. my interview wasn't long (about 20 minutes) and the professors were very nice. also practice because i found looking directly at the camera rather than at the faces onscreen difficult to get the hang of. i used a wireless connection and didn't have any problems, but if yours isn't quite stable you'll want an ethernet cord.

one more thing: if you live in a house with other people (as i do), graciously ask that they refrain from showering/partying/cooking or talking loudly during the interview. while i was practicing with my mom someone started to take a shower, and she said it sounded very loud on her end. i'm glad that happened so i could ask people not to do that during the real interview.



Hey everyone-- I just returned from my first interview day, and I wanted to share some of the questions I was asked in my individual meetings. I know it differs by program, but it can't hurt to be prepared, right? This was for an experimental psychology Ph.D. program.

1. What are your research interests and ideas?
2. Tell me more about [anything on my CV].
3. Based on your interests and mine, what kinds of projects do you see us working on together?
4. What kind of career do you want in the future?*

*This topic came up more often than I thought it would. Make sure you have an answer prepared for whether you see yourself in industry or academia, and if academia, whether you want to focus more on research, teaching, or a mix of both. Know what size and type of university would be ideal for you.

And the number one question: "Do you have any questions?". Everyone will offer to answer your questions all day. Have some prepared, and pace yourself! If you forget to ask something, don't worry, they'll ask again later if you have any questions. :)



Thanks for sharing! I'm down 1.5 interviews, 2.5 to go, so I'm still stalking these fora to help prepare myself. I'll share some of the general questions I've gotten so far:

Where do you see yourself and your interests 5 years down the line?
Slightly more generally - what future avenues do you want to take with your work? (EVERYONE asked me this.)
What are you working on RIGHT NOW?
What have you done since graduating?
Questions about methodologies, which I need to prepare a less incoherent answer for.
And a lot of really specific questions about my work.

And not a lot of questions about why I see myself fitting into their program, although I'm still preparing to answer questions like that, that focus more on them than me.

It's really all been about turning my SoP into a long, extended conversation.

And YES!!! Be prepared to ASK QUESTIONS! Don't be afraid to ask hard questions either, because you're pretty much at the stage where you are feeling out the school for your own fit, too.

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The best advice I can give (based on 2 in person interviews and 2 semi-phone interviews) is CONFIDENCE. You can't possibly prepare for every single question you'll get asked. Of course, know your stuff (if there's something on your CV you can't at least say a few sentences about, it probably should't be on there in the first place) and know their stuff peripherally (they won't grill you on their work). But on top of that, come in with confidence. I come in with an attitude of "I may not know everything, but I can definitely learn." 


Another thing is to make sure you have questions. I prepared a page+ of questions per school, and didn't get to really ask most of them. Most of my questions stemmed from the conversation itself. With that said, be prepared with some initial questions. Don't ask anything that is already on the website (i.e. match rates), don't ask anything to shows you didn't do your homework either. 


I got asked a ridiculously out there question from 2 people during my interviews, but the biggest thing is knowing how to take a step back, think, and answer to the best of your ability. I also had another interview with the director where I was asking all the questions. I even asked him if he had any questions for me and the answer was pretty much no. So be prepared to have a discussion and to be able to lead that discussion if need be.


Lastly, even though the advice I received and read is that you don't need to know other faculty who are not your POI's work, I find that having a brief understanding of their work helps. It helps as a conversation starter if anything. Plus, by the end of the day after meeting with 5 people, you do get tired of repeating the same thing over and over. 


Good luck to all of us!

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Remember to talk about your interests, and try to find a way to connect it with your POI's work. Ask good questions about your POI's research. Be prepared to talk about your current work and future goals. Know the program and as much as possible about your POI's current and past research. Be prepared to talk to a lot of different people.

Good luck!

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Definitely have a LOT of questions prepared. My interviews were so laid back, that there were several interviewers who literally sat down and said, "Ok, so tell me what questions you have about the program." Then I had to fill the entire 20-30 minute period asking my questions. It doesn't matter if you repeat the exact same questions to different people - just have a lot of them ready.


Also, don't lie. Don't pretend to love addiction or mood disorders or whatever they're studying if you're really interested in Autism. Be completely honest about what you're looking for in an advisor and program because that's how you find the best fit.


If you're interviewing for Clinical Psych, dress in business attire. Suit, tie, slacks, blazer, skirt, etc.


Be confident, but not arrogant. Know the school. Know the department. Know the faculty. Ask questions. Relax.

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Definitely have a LOT of questions prepared. My interviews were so laid back, that there were several interviewers who literally sat down and said, "Ok, so tell me what questions you have about the program." Then I had to fill the entire 20-30 minute period asking my questions. It doesn't matter if you repeat the exact same questions to different people - just have a lot of them ready.

This happened to me as well, and the last 5-10minutes were a little awkward as I ran out of prepared questions I wanted to ask. I ended up asking some generic questions and the responses were not helpful at all.
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