When you think of applying for academic positions, you are probably thinking of research assistants, lecturers, etc. However, applying for a PhD position is the same as applying for any other position in the field of academia. It’s a highly competitive process that involves multiple stages and interviews. Doing a doctoral degree is a full-time job. If you’ve been selected by the committee to do an interview, well done! You have completed step 1. Now it’s time to prepare for the actual interview.
Here are common PhD interview questions to help you prepare.
- Tell us about yourself
This is one of the most common opening questions. It’s your chance to share with the committee information about yourself that’s not on your resume.
- Why are you applying for this particular PhD?
Explain to the committee why a particular field of study is of interest to you. Avoid generic answers. Be genuine.
- Why are you applying for a PhD at this particular institution?
You should be able to justify why you picked this specific university for your doctoral studies. Is it their research facilities? Is it their academic staff? Is it the university’s reputation for excellence?
- What makes you a good candidate?
Another standards PhD interview question, it’s an opportunity to show what past experiences and achievements will help you succeed in this academic job.
- Tell us more about your last research project
The interviewer wants to know not only about the findings of your last research project, but what you have learned from it outside of these findings. For example, did it strengthen your knowledge of qualitative research methods? Did you come across any difficulties and how did you overcome them?
- Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
The interviewer is trying to understand whether your pursuit of a PhD aligns with your academic job goals.
- What do you perceive to be the biggest issues in the field at the moment?
This PhD interview question is meant to test your understanding of the field and your ability to critically analyze it. Are you bringing a unique perspective to the table? Are you up to date on the latest developments?
- What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?
This is a question many people are hesitant to answer. Candidates believe that admitting to real weaknesses will put them in a disadvantaged position. However, most of the time, interviewers are trying to figure out how self-aware you are. Generic answers like “I work too hard” will not cut it.
- Do you have any questions for us?
This is your opportunity to engage with the selection committee. Show that you are truly interested in this academic position and ask at least one informative question.
During the preparation stage, reflect on all this PhD interview questions and note down a couple of points for each. Do not write scripted answers and recite them at the interview. Be thoughtful and reflective. Listen to the actual questions. Be respectful of the interviewers’ time and don’t go on 30-minute rants on unrelated subjects. Be genuine, polite, and professional. Good luck!