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So it looks like a few people have heard some positive news from grad schools about upcoming interviews starting next month. How is everyone preparing? I know that I did some initial preparation when I was completing my applications, but I'm not too sure where to go from here.

Every POI has published material, ongoing grants and recently completed work, lab websites/department biographies... But what is interview day/weekend really about and what kinds of questions should we be preparing for and what questions should we be asking as we are on these interviews?

Happy Holidays!

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Regardless of what the interview sites tell you about having meals/snacks always ALWAYS have your own snacks and water with you!  This is especially important if you're on a special diet, have allergies, or are just plain picky.  Some programs are not very organized and you may have so many things scheduled for your day that you get 5 minutes to scarf something down.  Or you may find that their understanding of your dietary needs is horribly inaccurate or the special meal requested for you is forgotten or still not something you can eat.  Some places also just have terrible food regardless of what is served.  I just carried my purse with whatever I needed in it, but other applicants carried messenger bags or briefcases.  Most programs also load you down with swag.....pamphlets, brochures, random office supplies, water bottles, etc so having a bag is helpful anyway.  Oh and have kleenex, cough drops, and hand sanitizer.

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1. Don't BS, don't name drop, don't rehearse answers. All these things are easily spotted and a quick way to give away a potential spot. Be yourself!

2. Don't be intimidated by people you are interviewing against. Don't get caught up in discussing accomplishments and pissing contests (if this is observed you can probably count yourself out). Be friendly and kind to all.

3.Make sure the program also fits for you and you believe you could work well with your advisor.  Pay attention to current graduate students, their attitudes, their accomplishments, etc. Interview weekend is a two way street. You should leave the interview feeling impressed with the program and wanting to be there. If not, look elsewhere. 

Edited by Plasticity

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47 minutes ago, MarineBluePsy said:

Regardless of what the interview sites tell you about having meals/snacks always ALWAYS have your own snacks and water with you!  This is especially important if you're on a special diet, have allergies, or are just plain picky.  Some programs are not very organized and you may have so many things scheduled for your day that you get 5 minutes to scarf something down.  Or you may find that their understanding of your dietary needs is horribly inaccurate or the special meal requested for you is forgotten or still not something you can eat.  Some places also just have terrible food regardless of what is served.  I just carried my purse with whatever I needed in it, but other applicants carried messenger bags or briefcases.  Most programs also load you down with swag.....pamphlets, brochures, random office supplies, water bottles, etc so having a bag is helpful anyway.  Oh and have kleenex, cough drops, and hand sanitizer.

This is part of why I didn't specify any dietary needs when they asked. They're so complicated that it's easier for me to eat what I can and supplement with my own snacks rather than make a fuss.

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1) I don't know about everyone else, but my current PI asked me when I was interviewing–"What would you want to work on for your first year project?". I was not really expecting this and so it caught me off guard. I would recommend thinking about specific real-world projects/interests that you would want to work on with your POI; when they ask WHY you want to work on this project, don't just say "to help people". Give them a real reason for the importance of your topic of interest. 

2) If they are having you interview with multiple faculty members, make sure to get some understanding of what they work on. This can help a lot when interviewing. Also, other faculty members are oftentimes interested in hearing you defend why your research interests are important, so be prepared (like in #1 above) to talk about this. 

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54 minutes ago, The_Old_Wise_One said:

1) I don't know about everyone else, but my current PI asked me when I was interviewing–"What would you want to work on for your first year project?". I was not really expecting this and so it caught me off guard. I would recommend thinking about specific real-world projects/interests that you would want to work on with your POI; when they ask WHY you want to work on this project, don't just say "to help people". Give them a real reason for the importance of your topic of interest. 

This is a good point and I too did not expect this question in my interviews especially when most of my SOP prompts asked this.  I just discussed what I had proposed in my SOP, but in a little more detail.  I also made it clear I was interested in working on other projects as they came up in the lab not just to be a team player, but to broaden my knowledge base.

That's another tip actually.  Review the application materials you submitted before your interview.  I actually had one POI pull out my CV and grill me on random pieces of it.  I'm not sure if they were trying to rattle me, catch me in a lie, or genuinely interested but either way I more than knew my stuff.  

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37 minutes ago, MarineBluePsy said:

 

That's another tip actually.  Review the application materials you submitted before your interview.  I actually had one POI pull out my CV and grill me on random pieces of it.  I'm not sure if they were trying to rattle me, catch me in a lie, or genuinely interested but either way I more than knew my stuff.  

Very good tip. I had a phone interview and was asked about a paper I had under review. It was a paper from I project I created four years ago, and the lab wrote it up after I left. I hadn't read the paper in a year and couldn't remember the results. It never occurred to me that someone would ask about it because it's not relevant to my current research area. If it's on your CV, make sure you can talk about it.  

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38 minutes ago, dsqw11 said:

Potentially really dumb question - but when grad students provide housing, does this mean we'll be sleeping on their couch or something? Should we bring extra blankets or pillows just in case? 

Likely you will be. When I stayed with a grad student at an interview, I had an air mattress on the floor. I would expect that they'll have blankets and pillows, but if you need more, you could bring some. 

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52 minutes ago, stereopticons said:

Likely you will be. When I stayed with a grad student at an interview, I had an air mattress on the floor. I would expect that they'll have blankets and pillows, but if you need more, you could bring some. 

Is it good practice to bring a small gift for the grad student whom will be hosting you, or is that unnecessary?

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3 minutes ago, neur0cat said:

Is it good practice to bring a small gift for the grad student whom will be hosting you, or is that unnecessary?

I would feel compelled to do so regardless of what the actual protocol may be.

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1 hour ago, dsqw11 said:

Potentially really dumb question - but when grad students provide housing, does this mean we'll be sleeping on their couch or something? Should we bring extra blankets or pillows just in case? 

If a grad student is hosting you then you'll either be on the couch, an air mattress, or a cot.  It probably isn't the norm for them to have a proper guest room.  Your mode of transportation will likely influence what is provided for you.  Last year I had to fly everywhere so the students that hosted me knew I couldn't just lug blankets and pillows on board with my carry on and had all of that waiting for me.  If I had been able to drive I would have brought my own bedding.

16 minutes ago, neur0cat said:

Is it good practice to bring a small gift for the grad student whom will be hosting you, or is that unnecessary?

Some do and some do not.  If you do this then keep whatever you give around $5 so it is very clear that it is just a thank you and nothing more.  You could always just do a thank you card with a personalized note.

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1 hour ago, psychapp2016 said:

Anyone have any advice on preparing answers? I get nervous with interviews and tend to ramble, so I want to know my bullet points but don't want to sound rehearsed or robotic

Write stuff down! You can have a folder in front of you in the interview to reference if you get flustered. Also, find people to practice with you. It sucks, but it's worth it. 

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52 minutes ago, psychapp2016 said:

That's a good idea, I was worried it would make me look unprepared but I think having a "cheat sheet" or reminder sheet of a few things would make me feel a little more secure.

When I pulled out a notebook with pre-written questions and notes for my interview with my POI, usually people were nothing but impressed that I was so prepared. 

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2 minutes ago, Anxiousapplicant01 said:

When I pulled out a notebook with pre-written questions and notes for my interview with my POI, usually people were nothing but impressed that I was so prepared. 

That's a relief to hear! The amount of notes and questions I have are ....abundant... going to condense to a few pages I think so it doesn't look like a book

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47 minutes ago, psychapp2016 said:

That's a relief to hear! The amount of notes and questions I have are ....abundant... going to condense to a few pages I think so it doesn't look like a book

I need to condense mine, too. I need to make it easier to find stuff quickly when I'm undoubtedly flustered. 

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This might be a strange question, but any advice on interviewing when your POI is much older and a different gender than you? I want to make sure I am taken seriously. I might need to tone down my normal "bubbly-ness."

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My first interview is in 2 days, getting pretty nervous...

I thought I'd share a list of questions that my current PI gave me to prepare with. I hope this is helpful!

-Why do you want to work with me? (research fit, ideas on mentorship)

-What are the questions you want to pursue in grad school? (you don’t have to KNOW your thesis plans but you should have a good sense of what you are excited about). SPEND THE MOST TIME HERE ON THIS

QUESTION

-Tell me about your clinical experience (anything with humans, but prioritize the high-risk stuff)

-Tell me about your stats background (mention data comfort, programs, analysis experience, aspirations)

-What do you do for fun? (making sure you have a life)

-What do you think your biggest challenge will be in our program?

-What do you think about our city? (can you handle snow, small towns, cost of living, etc)

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I have been practicing with one of my mentors and he has pointed out to be careful with closed body language such as crossing of arms. I do this automatically when I become nervous. Also, I need to focus on framing everything in a positive manner. I tend to be fairly frank and to the point. So I need to be sure that what I say does not come across as negative.

Another question to consider.

Can you tell me about a time when you have had to confront an ethical or moral dilemma? Maybe an issue within yourself or with others, and how did you handle it?

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For those of you who have stayed with grad students during interviews... how was it? 

I might have the opportunity to stay with a grad student for an upcoming interview. It would be great to save some money, but I'm afraid it'll be really weird because I've never stayed with a complete stranger before. 

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I have found a lot of "kisses of death" or interview faux pas from the APA and other sources. Anyone have resources on things to absolutely avoid?

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On ‎1‎/‎20‎/‎2017 at 8:36 PM, hsnl said:

For those of you who have stayed with grad students during interviews... how was it? 

I might have the opportunity to stay with a grad student for an upcoming interview. It would be great to save some money, but I'm afraid it'll be really weird because I've never stayed with a complete stranger before. 

Its a little awkward of course but its something they probably did while applying so they understand how it feels and are 'paying-it-forward' so to speak. Just be courteous and mindful and it'll be fine. I ended up watching a tv show and made small talk after the social with mine the last cycle I applied; wasn't too bad :)

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I had a really good experience---the person I stayed with was a student in the lab I was applying to work in. I got to know them and they gave me good feedback about what it's like to work under my POI. They were very candid about school life and how they managed things and got along with others. And as you know, the interview starts from the moment you get to the campus, even when things are casual; and I think we hit it off well, which would only help to put me in an good light. 

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How many students per faculty member do most schools accept per year? For example, if there are 6 faculty members accepting students each head6, would only 6 people be accepted, or possibly 12? 

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