Jump to content

Potential Interview Questions


Recommended Posts

What are some common interview questions which are asked during grad school interviews?


Also, I've heard that applicants may be asked what other schools they've applied to; does anyone have advice on the best way to address this kind of question?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Why are you interested in their university is probably the question I got asked the most.

We also talked about my career goals and what I had been doing post undergrad.

Remember that you need to ask questions too. Don't worry so much about what they'll ask you, think about what you want to know. Also, be excited and pleasant. And relax, getting to the interview is the hard part.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Everyone will ask you to describe your research and what your role was. This is one of the biggest things, you need to be able to comfortably explain your past research to someone who is not in your field. I.e. you worked on transcription factors and you are interviewing with someone working on signalling pathways.

Edited by mop
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Many places will also ask why you want a PhD, which caught me totally off guard the first time. "I've wanted a PhD for the last 6 years because science is awesome!" might be a good start...but is not enough :P.


As for what other schools I applied to: I was honest and named a few lower ranked schools and a few higher ranked schools from my list. A few times I was asked what I thought at the other interviews, and again, was honest without gushing about a different program.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Definitely depends solely on which professor you talk to. Some will just ask you about your research, then talk about theirs. I was asked what I think my strengths and weaknesses are, and why I should be accepted over other applicants at one interview, which felt more like an actual job interview. But that kinda stuff is rare. I didn't get asked why I wanted to go to a specific school, very often, maybe a handful of times. But there's usually an info session before interview starts where the dean talks about the program extensively, which will give you plenty of good reasons why you should go to that school over any other. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Describe your research, what are you hoping to do with a PhD, why a PhD, why this program.  Those are the big ones.  Also I found that the more confident you are and the more you can handle those big questions the more they lay off of you.  I didn't have any scary interviews even though I was warned so and so would be tough and kind of intimidating.  If you go in and they know you know your stuff they back off and just love to chat with you.  Be pleasant and honest.  I always answered where else I had interviewed and which other places I would be yet.  I did not give any indication of what my top choices were but always explained what about their program makes me interested in them.  So tell them the list and say, some of the things I am looking for are x,y, and z which is why your program is of interest to me.  Remind them, you are interested in them too!

Other than that just go with the flow.  If you have any weak points be prepared to answer them and give an explanation for them.  Once you go through the first one and get the jitters out you'll realize how fun it can be.  Remember that they already like you or they wouldn't bring you out to see them.  Now you just have to show them that you are what you say you are, and that you can do it.  That is really what they are looking for.

Best of luck!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here is a list of questions that I remember being asked:


1) What research did you do as an undergraduate?/Explain your research experience.

2) Why do you want a PhD?

3) Why are you interested in our institution?

4) Why are you interested in this specific program?

5) What are your research interests?/What research do you want to do in the future?

6) Do you have any reservations/worries about entering a PhD program?

7) What interests you about my research?/What do you know about my research?

8) What drives you as a scientist?

9) What other programs are you applying to?

10) What interests you about the city the institution is located in? (and questions related to this!)

11) What do you do in your free time?


Of these, #1, #3 and #4, and #11 I were asked at every single interview.


Honestly, the biggest part of the interviews are 1) being able to honestly talk about your research, 2) being excited, 3) asking questions, and 4) being able to communicate that there is more to you than just a love for science. My best interviews were interviews where we talked about science for 5-10 minutes than about my background/hobbies for the rest of the time.


Also, each PI/student who interviews you will do things different. You MAY get grilled on your research or (very rarely) that specific PIs research. They may expect you to know NOTHING about them. You may get a PI who does not want to talk about science and instead just get to know you.


Overall, interview weekends are a blast, and the individual interviews are fun and helpful for deciding your interests and your feelings about the program.


Hope this helps!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use