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Interview Questions from Graduate Students


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Hello!

 

There are lovely topics regarding interview questions to expect at an interview when entering a program. For clinical programs, typically there are questions regarding research, and questions regarding the clinical piece. I am hoping to gain some insight in the type of questions that the graduate students (usually of your potential supervisor's lab) will ask. 

 

Any input is fantastic :) Best of luck to those starting the interview process!!

 

Cheers

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The student I met with in my adviser's lab started with one question: "What questions do you have?" She saw her role as being a resource for me. I asked her about what living in that town was like, what the lab was like, and so on - questions that definitely factored into whether I and my family would do well moving to that location. The questions she asked me were more personal than they were professional (i.e., asking how old my kids were so she could describe the relevant schools in the area; I broached the subject of religion first, so she asked what religious denomination I identify with to point me in the appropriate direction in that regard, and so on).

Edited by Lisa44201
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Grad student interviews will range widely. Some are casual and helpful ways to have a breather from the "real" interviews if the grad student just provides you with an opportunity to ask them questions.

 

However, others can be even worse than faculty interviews if the grad student gets on a power trip and decides that they want to use it on you. In that case, find any list of "potential interview questions," look for the hardest/most-annoying ones, and those are probably what they will ask.

 

It comes down to the individual conducting the interview and (sometimes) to the style of the program itself, but for what it's worth, I definitely encountered more of the "ask me anything" type than the "I will crush you" type.

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Grad student interviews will range widely. Some are casual and helpful ways to have a breather from the "real" interviews if the grad student just provides you with an opportunity to ask them questions.

 

However, others can be even worse than faculty interviews if the grad student gets on a power trip and decides that they want to use it on you. In that case, find any list of "potential interview questions," look for the hardest/most-annoying ones, and those are probably what they will ask.

 

It comes down to the individual conducting the interview and (sometimes) to the style of the program itself, but for what it's worth, I definitely encountered more of the "ask me anything" type than the "I will crush you" type.

 

That happened to me at one school- I had a formal interview with a student (not in the lab I was applying to), and he asked some really obnoxious questions... like the type of people I don't like to work with, my biggest faults, my most embarrassing moment- while smirking at me. Just random crap that really wasn't really appropriate. It did NOT give me a good impression of the school.

 

That was my only formal interview with a student- the rest of the time, they were friendly, and very helpful resources (especially the ones who hosted me). They asked more questions like where else are you applying, what are you looking for, what are you doing now, do you have any questions for me... just normal questions that you would ask someone in the same circumstances :-)

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I think you'll be fine answering the basic questions that any grad student will have (as mentioned above).

 

What might be important to consider is the questions YOU have for the grad student. Here's your chance to show you're serious, smart and ready for grad school. If I had a prospective student ask me no questions or not really sure what they needed to know, I wouldn't be impressed and maybe not take them seriously. However, if the student asked me smart questions like "How is your PI's mentoring style?" "What opportunities have you found for collaboration?" etc. I would be impressed and see that this person is serious about starting grad school and so forth. So..I recommend prepping a good list of questions for your grad student interviews. You can get a lot of useful info about the PI and department this way as well!

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When I've been that grad student I've seen myself more as a resource than an interviewer so, like the others, having questions to ask is good.

 

When I ask questions they're just the regular getting-to-know-you stuff ("What do you do for fun?"   "Is anyone moving with you?") because I can use your answers to sell you on the university ("Oh, your partner is a chocolateer? That's great, our obesity rates are among the highest in the nation!")

 

I'll ask about research too because that's what grad students talk about. It's just a thing we all talk about, there's not a trick question. There have been only two times that, in my opinion, potential students have flunked the question, "What are you interested in researching?" Once was when the candidate said "I have no idea" and the other was when he/she said, "I'm really more interested in teaching than research."   The first case left after one term and the second has maintained those poor priorities until this very day and might graduate, but won't get an academic job.

Edited by lewin
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When I've been that grad student I've seen myself more as a resource than an interviewer so, like the others, having questions to ask is good.

 

When I ask questions they're just the regular getting-to-know-you stuff ("What do you do for fun?"   "Is anyone moving with you?") because I can use your answers to sell you on the university ("Oh, your partner is a chocolateer? That's great, our obesity rates are among the highest in the nation!")

 

I'll ask about research too because that's what grad students talk about. It's just a thing we all talk about, there's not a trick question. There have been only two times that, in my opinion, potential students have flunked the question, "What are you interested in researching?" Once was when the candidate said "I have no idea" and the other was when he/she said, "I'm really more interested in teaching than research."   The first case left after one term and the second has maintained those poor priorities until this very day and might graduate, but won't get an academic job.

 

This.

 

Lewin pretty much nailed it, but just to re-emphasize, here are the kinds of things I'll be asking:

  • What can I tell you about this school/program? [Answer questions]
  • Who are you interested in working with (we don't really have a 1-to-1 advisor system)? [Give my thoughts about those people]
  • What is your background (even if I already know)?
  • What are you interested in researching?
  • Where else are you considering?
  • (Interesting fact I learned about you from your application or from conversation) is interesting, tell me about that?
  • How's the weather?

And several other insightful questions, I'm sure. :)  For us, it's really about getting to know the candidates and helping them understand what it's like to be a student here.

 

Because the questions aren't that hard, here are some tips on how to make a good impression:

  • Be able to answer the questions above.  These are softballs, so if you can't answer them, I'm going to wonder why you're here. 
  • Have questions of your own. Most of the grad students will want to be helpful to you, so give us that chance! Even if you asked the last 3 grad students all the same question, you never know when one of them will tell you something you haven't heard yet. 
  • Get used to asking the same questions over and over, and get used to giving the same answers over and over. Try not to get annoyed when 15 people ask you "so, what do you want to do here?" :)
  • Don't be a jerk.  This should be self-evident, but just in case: the grad students are looking at you as a potential classmate/friend/colleague.  Nobody wants to work with a jerk.  Frankly, most of the time, being a jerk (especially to the students) won't ruin your chances or get an offer rescinded, but still -- don't, okay? These are also your potential classmates/friends/colleagues, and you don't want to start somewhere with a reputation for being a jerk.
  • Do be yourself (even if you are a jerk, I suppose?).  Because this is your potential cohort, you want to figure out how well you will fit in.  Again, you probably won't make your decision based solely on social fit with the grad students (and you shouldn't, obviously), but it's nice to know.

That's all.  Remember, unless they are jerks (and if they are, and you are, then match made!), grad students are sympathetic to your position. And if they are jerks, don't sweat your performance -- odds are good that everyone knows that guy is a jerk.  We've all been where you are, many of us very recently, and we want you to be comfortable and get all of the information we can offer to help you make a good decision.

 

Good luck!

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I asked during interviews what type of students are usually admitted.

I was told usually student with masters degrees (which I have one) they are looking for a willingness to learn and further their education. They aren't looking for someone who wants to come and teach the courses.

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