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Interview Questions


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I did a mock interview and they asked really random things. They also asked : tell me about a weakness you have, why are you different from other applicants, why are you interested in this specifically, why this program / POI, what are your strengths, where are you / social psych in 10 years, 


I am not sure if these are accurate as I had to go to career services, which at my uni is mostly focused on job placement but it was still a good experience. Plus, she is setting up a panel for me with Psych PhD grads next time... that is in 2 weeks.

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I will now post random lists that I compiled and other applicants compiled (and sent to me) to prep last year:

  • Long-term career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5/10 years?
  • What made you decide to pursue a graduate degree in Psychology?
  • How interested are you in this program?
  • What training model are you most interested in? Why?
  • Why did you apply to this particular program? Where did you hear about us?
  • Why should we accept you into our program?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • What are your most important rewards you expect in your graduate training? In your career?
  • What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • What two or three accomplishments in your life have given you the most satisfaction?
  • How do you work under pressure? How do you handle stress?
  • How likely are you to finish your degree? Do you think you can?
  • How do you feel about taking rigorous courses that are not of much interest to you?
  • What major academic problem have you faced and how did you deal with it?
  • What did you particularly like about your undergraduate education? What did you like least?
  • What could you add to our department?
  • Is there anything additional we should know about you?
  • What other schools have you applied to?
  • Do you have any ambitions to teach?
  • Tell us something interesting about yourself.
  • Give us some examples of your creativity, initiative, maturity, and breadth of interest.
  • Why do you want to be a psychologist?
  • What qualifications do you have that will make you a successful psychologist?
  • Hobbies, outside of Psychology?


Someone else's list:


1. Why that specific topic?


3. How do you plan to incorporate <interest>?


4. Your research projects in depth?


5. Favorite research project?


6. Clinical experiences- challenge? What did you like it?- in research setting?


7. What you are hoping to get out of the program?


Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, 15 years? Career goals?


Why are you interested in xyz?


What would you bring to the program specifically/ why are you special?


What are your hobbies outside of psychology? Books? Interests?


Favorite and least favorite parts of the research process?


Favorite and least favorite parts of masters (if you did)


Grasp on current lab's/past lab's projects in general


Tell us about yourself as a person


What is something we should know about you that is not on your CV?


How well do you work under pressure? How well do you handle stress?


What are 2-3 accomplishments in your life that have given you the most satisfaction?






Time you showed initiative?


How do you think? Most generally about the big picture or more about details?


Why are you the best candidate?


What challenges do you think you will face as a grad student?

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Another one: (Numbers are off cause I had deleted some)-


1.    Why is this program a good fit for you?
2.    What type of research questions are you interested in?
3.    How do your interests align with researchers that you applied to work with?
4.    Why is <xyz> research interesting in <population>?
5.    Why do you want training in <specific subfield> instead of <xyz>
6.    What <specific area> experience do you have?
7.    Why do you want a Ph.D. opposed to just M.A.?
8.    Why do you want to do a clinical program instead of cognitive neuroscience?
9.    What do you like to do in your spare time?
10.    Tell me about yourself.
11.    Tell me about the paradigm that you used in your Master’s thesis.
12.    Why do you want to get into this Program, this School?
13.    What clinical experience do you have?
14.    Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
15.    What are some of your strengths? Weaknesses?
16.    Do you have any questions for me?
17.    Think of something to talk about in the “introduce yourself” sections. Something weird?
18.    If you're not accepted into graduate school, what are your plans?
19.    Why did you choose this career?
20.    What do you know about our program?
21.    Why did you choose to apply to our program?
22.    What other schools are you considering?
23.    In what ways have your previous experience prepared you for graduate study in our program?
24.    Any questions?
25.    What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
26.    In college, what courses did you enjoy the most? The least? Why?
27.    Describe any research project you've worked on. What was the purpose of the project and what was your role in the project?
28.    How would your professors describe you?
29.    How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
30.    What are your hobbies?
31.    Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What would you do differently? Why?
32.    Describe your greatest accomplishment.
33.    Tell me about your experience in this field. What was challenging? What was your contribution?
34.    What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
35.    How do you intend to finance your education?
36.    What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
37.    Are you motivated? Explain and provide examples.
38.    Why should we take you and not someone else?
39.    What do you plan to specialize in?
43.    What can be determined about an applicant at an interview?
44. If you were to name your future lab, what would it be?
“If you had a 10 million dollar grant, tell me about the study you’d design”

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I thought that it might be helpful to share another perspective on the whole interview thing. When I applied last year, I was invited to an "interview weekend" at my top choice university. I was very nervous, and tried to come up with great answers to the hard questions I assumed they would ask. In fact, I looked over the list of potential questions that was complied last year, which PsychGirl1 has posted above. These were very helpful, and I felt far more prepared. However, the interview weekend was actually extremely relaxing. There was never a formal interview. My PI took me and another potential grad student of his out for lunch and asked us about ourselves, but most of those questions were completely psych irrelevant (e.g., what's your favourite type of cuisine). I spent the rest of the weekend sight-seeing, meeting graduate students and faculty, and attending dinner parties. Anyways, I think the point that I'm trying to make is that not all interviews are what you're expecting, and you have to go with the flow. I think that there's certainly a benefit to preparing some answers to the very difficult questions (e.g., what are your greatest weaknesses), but in the end I think that it's more important to have an open mind and to be friendly and genuinely excited about the opportunity rather than nervous.

Note: I was accepted to at that university, but I declined the offer because I found the program and the PI were not a good fit for me.

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I went on 5 interviews last year, and I'd say the majority asked me the type of questions above. (Or at least, a random handful of them). One or two of my interviews was more relaxing, but I think it's important to have answers to all of these in your back pocket. But yes, you might prepare them and not get to use them, depending on the luck of the draw :-D

Edited by PsychGirl1
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For what it's worth (maybe a little peace of mind?), my experience last year was similar to hobochic's, in that I really only had one experience that these kinds of interview questions would have been helpful for (and I never got the "standard" interview junk questions like "Tell me about a weakness").  A few tips, based on my own experience:

  1. If you are applying clinical, you should probably ignore me altogether, because all I really know about clinical apps is that they are often very different from other areas. My understanding is that clinical program interviews are much more like typical job interviews, but -- again -- if that applies to you, you should probably not be listening to me anyway! :)
  2. Many programs, especially top programs, are moving toward admitting students before the visit/interview weekend. One side effect of this is that there are fewer interview that feel like you need to impress -- the discussions are much more centered on finding out if a program is really a good fit. Another side effect is that, before you have been admitted, you are much more likely to experience a pre-admission "chat" with a POI (or several) that isn't styled as a formal interview, but that may well feel that way to you. Because it isn't an interview, though, you generally won't have to worry about "interview questions." These discussions (and all decent interviews!) will usually be about your research, your goals, and the research interests of the people you are speaking with (hopefully a POI). That leads to my top bit of interview prep advice...
  3. Be prepared to talk at length about your research: past, present, and future. You do not have to know exactly where you want to go with your research, and nobody is going to hold you to the things you talked about in your admit interview, but you DO need to have an idea which topics and approaches interest you (and which don't). If you haven't already (and maybe even if you have), spend some time thinking critically about your research and your future goals. You'll want to know all of this for your own purposes, too, so that you can be thinking about what to look for in a program (remember: this interview is a 2-way process, even though it may not feel that way). Think about:
    1. What motivates you to study psychology?
    2. Why study it in the way/area that you have identified?
    3. What research have you done? What was your level of involvement in that research? Who did you work with? What did you find?
    4. What (if anything) do you hope to continue from your previous research? What do you hope to move away from?
    5. What is the "next step" of your current/previous research? Are you interested in conducting that work?
    6. Why are you applying to this program? Who do you hope to work with? Why do you think your interests overlap with theirs?
    7. What are the weaknesses of your research? How will you overcome these weaknesses?
    8. What do you hope to do in the future (again, knowing that nobody will hold you to this, and it's okay to be unsure, as long as you have thought about it)? What kind of setting do you want to be in after grad school? Why do you think this degree (and this program specifically) will help you get there?
    9. What kinds of work is going on in the department (or with the POI) that you are interviewing? Most groups seem to have themes of related research -- try to know what the favored theme/approach is in this particular department group. Is that a good fit for your research? If so, why?
    10. Think about ways in which your research may not be a good fit for a particular department (because someone there will already have thought of it!). Is that a deal breaker? If not, why not? (as an example, my research interests are very applied, and I needed to think about what my theoretical interests are and I needed to be prepared to explain what theory I am interested in developing -- or at least, I needed to be prepared for that question to come up, and to explain that the theoretical background is what I hoped to gain from a PhD program).
  4. Have some idea what kind of research your interviewer has done, if you can.  If this is a POI, this should be a no-brainer, but if it's with other students or professors you haven't researched, be sure to ask them what they're working on.
  5. Remember that you should be evaluating them, too.  You are going to spend a very challenging few (4-7) years with these people, and you want there to be a good fit. And your advisor will be your collaborator and primary advocate for many years after you graduate as well.  So you need to be gathering information that will help you make an informed decision.
  6. Generally, you are being evaluated for fit. They wouldn't have bothered interviewing you if they didn't think you were "good enough" for the program, so you should consider that box checked before you even begin. If you have a substantial weakness in your application (lack of research, low grades, etc), you should be prepared to discuss it if asked, but someone there already thinks you can overcome that weakness! This is why it is so important to be ready to really discuss your research interests and goals. The point of the interview is not to prove that you are "smart enough" to admit. The point is to prove that you will be a good colleague and collaborator. That means, first and foremost, that you are doing or want to do research that your POI(s) find interesting and exciting. The interview is a chance to show, beyond what you've already demonstrated in your application, that you have good ideas and you can talk about them intelligently. It also helps if they think you are the kind of person they want to be around for the next 4-7 years, but that's honestly secondary (although it can be a much more important point when you are dealing with students in the program, who (in my experience) have little influence over the ultimate decision except that they can provide a powerful warning to the professors -- so, really, don't be a jerk).

Hope that helps. Good luck to you all!!

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