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Hey guys! I saw someone in the Sociology forum start a thread for interview advice and thought that would be a good idea to start here. This will be especially helpful as interview notifications start rolling in. For students that have attended campus interviews, participated in Skype interviews, or even just had phone call interviews, what did you do to prepare? What kinds of questions were you asked, and what kinds of questions did you ask? Any suggestions for hopeful applicants? 

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Great topic @Espeon. I read everything I could on the general interview thread on GC; that was pretty helpful.

I also made a list of questions based on what other GC'ers recommended. It's a Google doc so if anyone wants it, PM me and I'm happy to share the link. Then, before each conversation, I reviewed it and reviewed the interviewer's bio as well as any work I could find of theirs.

This was helpful although still a nerve-wracking experience!

Interested in others' advice as well.

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4 hours ago, hopefulPhD2017 said:

Great topic @Espeon. I read everything I could on the general interview thread on GC; that was pretty helpful.

I also made a list of questions based on what other GC'ers recommended. It's a Google doc so if anyone wants it, PM me and I'm happy to share the link. Then, before each conversation, I reviewed it and reviewed the interviewer's bio as well as any work I could find of theirs.

This was helpful although still a nerve-wracking experience!

Interested in others' advice as well.

@hopefulPhD2017 I'd be so grateful for that link!

I had an interview on Skype - I'm an international student outside the U.S. so I can't really travel to universities for interviews. The interview was very casual, which surprised me a little despite knowing the U.S. isn't a terribly formal place in general, I guess I'm just used to academia my side of the world (it's a little too formal). I was asked to pretty much describe my experiences and research interests in relation to one another, which I started to and about halfway through sort of laughed and asked the faculty if I wasn't being repetitive since the information was in my personal statement anyway. They were very sweet to laugh in turn and acknowledge that it would feel a bit awkward and repetitive, but they were interested in hearing me talk about all of it more conversationally and hopefully fill in some information gaps they perceived they had. Also one of the faculty interviewers commented how it was always much nicer to hear a person speak about their interests out loud compared to reading an essay that was written, rewritten, edited, etc. for months before being presented. I did end up filling whatever gaps they had in their minds by the time I finished speaking, they acknowledged and thanked me for that and had just one question after (just one about who I preferred would be my advisor; a professor I've been corresponding with for months now). They asked me if I had any questions and I did, so once that was done, that was pretty much it!

I don't know if this is the typical experience though, because like I said I'd been speaking to that professor on and off for months and we spoke on Skype once earlier. I imagine it might differ a bit for places like Harvard where the faculty doesn't quite entertain prospective student requests for emails/calls...

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On 1/16/2017 at 6:39 PM, Espeon said:

Hey guys! I saw someone in the Sociology forum start a thread for interview advice and thought that would be a good idea to start here. This will be especially helpful as interview notifications start rolling in. For students that have attended campus interviews, participated in Skype interviews, or even just had phone call interviews, what did you do to prepare? What kinds of questions were you asked, and what kinds of questions did you ask? Any suggestions for hopeful applicants? 

In late October, I interviewed with Warner School of Education at University of Rochester. They gave me an option for a Skype interview (considering how I'm in Wisconsin), but I ended up going to Rochester, NY for my in-person interview instead (I think I got points for the effort of coming to campus). I applied for their Higher Education Master's program w/ specialization in Student Affairs & Academic/Career Advising.

Before I went there, my supervisor and I (he was overly enthusiastic in helping me research) looked up my interviewer to see some of his past works, papers, etc.

I knew I wanted to ask about assistantship possibilities, so I did ask my interviewer about it. I also mentioned about another professor at Warner who wrote a paper about students' motivation for attending college and effects on college grades, which, coincidentally, I was reading for one of my classes. We talked more about why I got interested in education (as I am a business student), what I plan to do after my master's (I want to be an education consultant in Malaysia), what specific issues in education is interesting to me, why I applied to Warner (they had that program with specialization in both student affairs and career/academic advising, which is what I like). 

My interviewer also took me on a tour around the Education school, showed me different places and classrooms and all (which was super cool because right now I'm soooo in love with the campus).

I also set up an informational interview with the professor I mentioned above (with the paper on students' motivation), and talked more about his research, etc. He was also kind enough to let me join in his discussion group with his doctoral students, which was a really fun experience for me. I was not into research at all, and was looking for a more hands-on, students-affairs oriented program, but it was definitely a good experience for me to see how research in Education is done.

I guess one thing I could say is to read up on the school and the program, and really know why you applied to a specific school. Be honest in your answer, don't be afraid to ask about funding options, see if you can also talk to other professors / current students who are around. It'll give you a wide variety of opinions to consider. :)

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I'm comyling a comprehensive (or I hope it will be so) set of advice tailored to interviews social sciences/humanities. Going to share it in a while. What I don't get is how does one ask about the interviewer's research without coming off as overprepared? This is especially problematic if the interviewers are not one's POI. On the one hand, of course I'm interested in what they are doing! They are in the same school! On the other - there is less common ground here (compared to the POI)... How do you do that?.. I keep playing really silly questions in my mind, i.e. 'So you are doing a research in X, yeah?' :huh:

Edited by day_manderly
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On 1/25/2017 at 3:44 PM, day_manderly said:

I'm comyling a comprehensive (or I hope it will be so) set of advice tailored to interviews social sciences/humanities. Going to share it in a while. What I don't get is how does one ask about the interviewer's research without coming off as overprepared? This is especially problematic if the interviewers are not one's POI. On the one hand, of course I'm interested in what they are doing! They are in the same school! On the other - there is less common ground here (compared to the POI)... How do you do that?.. I keep playing really silly questions in my mind, i.e. 'So you are doing a research in X, yeah?' :huh:

The only idea that came to mind is saying, "I remember seeing that you've done/are pursuing research on ____.  How did you get started in that? What have you found out?  Have there been any surprises along the way?" etc.  I feel like that would be genuine without seeming too over prepared.  Plus, if they're someone who shares a research interest with you, I think it's natural that you would remember what that is.  Disclosure: this is coming from someone who hasn't done an interview yet :)

Edited by MTAdventuress
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OK, so I have developed the following plan. I am not sure it is the best one, but it is the one I am following. It is finetuned to the skype interview, but can be modified to accommodate the on-site interview as well. Tell me what you think.

  1. Plan the process of preparation. Of course, you can always just go with the flow - read a little about the school, reread your SoP, go back to the school's website, etc.. However, during the very interview you have to feel sure that you have done everything to prepare, and the only way to guarantee that (at least in my case) is going through the checkpoints one by one.
    1. Double-check the interview time. If you are abroad, use a time zone converter. Double-check. Mark your calendar.
    2. Count the days left. You will have a task for each one.
  2. To have a visual in your head, plan your outfit and the place where you will have your interview. The outfit has to be smart and simple, nothing exotic - they should pay attention to your words, not your looks. Dress well up and down, despite the fact it's skype and technically you can wear your pj in lieu of pants - this will make you fell professional. Make sure it's your 'you' outfit - something you love and feel comfortable in, something you have worn multiple types with unfaltering success. The background should be simple, too. I am borrowing a high-tech video cam from my friend as well. Make sure there are two sources of internet. I will be using wifi and I will have my mobile internet to share if something happens.
  3. Reread your SoP, your CV, and your Writing Sample. Imagine you are someone else, highlight everything that can generate questions. Here's the list I've made: anything unique, anything mysterious (like that course you mentioned in passing but did not elaborate upon), anything your interviewers are good at (pertaining to their area of expertise), because they read 100 SoPs and naturally pay attention to the familiar things. Write the questions down.
  4. Do a mock interview if possible - with a friend, a fellow applicant, or even with that ruthless alter ego hiding inside you. Get confused because of some of the questions. Write down all of the confusing/surprising ones. Reflect on your performance. Note areas for improvement. For example, I get nervous, time starts flowing in a strange way, and I feel overwhelmed because of all the things I am attempting to do - keep the question, the answer, pieces of advice from Grad Cafe folk in my head. I also found it difficult to think of examples to illustrate my points.
  5. Now the real works starts. You have an advanced list of questions - the original ones augmented by your ''interviewer's'' input. Answer your questions: write the answers down, or answer them in your head. Make concise notes (this is really important). Every answer should be 2-3 min, so that you get as many chances to shine as possible. Make sure to use examples. Look for the best ways to phrase your answers. While you will probably not say the same exact thing, the whole process will direct your mind towards working on the task. It will keep working out different questions and answers while you do other things - eat, sleep, take shower, etc. This is a psychological trick I like to use.
  6. Practice answering the questions. I am going to do that staring at my laptop's camera, no kidding. I find that problematic and usually end up looking at the little picture of myself when I talk to people via skype. Practice answering them with assurance and style. This is your chance. Own it, kick ass.
  7. One question they will definitely ask, as you might already know, is whether you have questions. Well, you do. Visit the schools website, revisit every conversation you've head with them, everything you know. Think of clever questions for them. Only ask things that demonstrate that you are prepared, you've done your homework, but yet you are thoughtful and curious. I.e. asking about living conditions for grad students is probably not a good idea at this stage - you should have done that prior to applying. Do ask about current and planned research projects, the school's publications, etc.
  8. Practice asking questions.
  9. Play the whole thing out in your head, think of different scenarios. Read grad cafe, but do not obsess. Do not think about other schools if possible, especially the ones you haven't heard from - it will only stress you out.
  10. The day. Put on what you have planned to wear. Make sure you have a spear shirt/tee/blouse in case you spill coffee on the one you have chosen 5 min prior to the interview. Check the time difference if you are abroad again. Abstain from caffeine - you will be full of beans anyways. Instead, eat healthy, drink water/herbal tea. Avoid everything that might make you nervous - checking news, your ex' facebook page, talking to that friend that always makes you feel less than, taking public transport, etc. Make sure you are alone in the room, and it is quiet. Adjust the camera, and the light. 15 minutes in, turn off the sound on your phone, and tablet. Close the facebook page on your laptop. Only have skype e-mail (the one you used for your application) open, nothing else. Check skype connection. Look through your notes. Make sure you are doing something during the minutes you have left, but not overwhelmed with tasks. And... game on!

 

 

Edited by day_manderly
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