9 Questions you need to prepare for a PhD Interview

After completing your master program, you have the possibility to enroll in a PHd program, in theory you don’t need to have a Master to enroll in a PhD program, however it is the most common and practical path to do so.

When you go to a PhD program interview you will need to ensure that you have a thing for academic study, that you want to pursue research for the next 4 to 5 years and you are ready to face the pressure that will come with it. Those 3 elements would mainly be what the PhD program jury will want to hear from you and verify when they go along with their questions.

When you prepare for your interview, focus on your purpose and academic career you wish to carry on. It is important to know that once you graduate from your PhD program you have the option to either continue working for Universities or make a switch and work in companies. In general, during a PhD program, the jury likes to hear that their student will pursue in academy but it can not always be true, you will need to judge based on the research you want to work on.

When you enroll in a PhD program, the interview can be a PhD online interview or a face to face one. In both cases review how to prepare for a standard interview. Even, if PhD program interview may be slightly different. Focus on your academic profil rather than real life case application, you will be going to an interview when you will need to convince the jury that you are the right candidate for their PhD program.

When you enroll in a PhD program, you have the choice to either chose a program where the research topic is already picked by the University but you can also design your own research and suggest it to the University. In both cases you will need to come prepared with the following answers to those questions:

1. Tell us about yourself?

Here is a common question for you to introduce yourself and focus on what makes you different from other candidates. In order to articulate your answer, think about the following areas where you will find what makes you stand out from other candidates:

  • Working Experience (if any) including summer jobs, student jobs

  • Volunteering jobs

  • Projects that you have lead in your city, at University, schools etc.

  • The Bachelor and Master Degree that you have completed and the thesis topics that you could perhaps link with the PhD program

2. Why do you want to do a PhD?

Doing a PhD is not easy and before you are able to put the Dr. before your name, it requires tremendous efforts during the year you are doing your research. Here, you need to be able to explain clearly your expectations, including your motivation in order to make the jury understand that you know exactly what is waiting for you. If you still have some doubts on a few aspects of a PhD program, check out the web site https://www.findaphd.com/ you will find all the ressource you need.

When answering this, focus on your motivation to be a pioneer in a certain type of research.

Your passion for academic research. Your strong desire to elevate your carrer at a Phd level.

One tip for your PhD Program and this question in particular: be as genuine as possible!

Universities wants to have PhD candidates who are passionate and are different from other candidates they already have. Ask yourself sincerely why it is so important for you to complete a PhD Program and include Phd wording that you can help the jury to connect with.

3. Why are you interested in this particular program?

As mentioned above, you have 2 options, but one is to enroll in a program that is already chosen and you will need to conduct a reasearch that the University wants you to research on. The tip to succeed in this PhD question is to carefully study the program before and if possible try to connect with a life compnent of yours. For instance, if you enroll in a program than plan to research on environment, link it to an experience of yours or a research you have done in your Master program for instance. Connect it to something that is touching your personal life.

4. What experience makes you a good candidate?

Not everyone is able to complete a PhD program, in reality a high percentage of candidates quit within the first 2 years of their program. Even if there is a strong focus from Academies to counter this phenomene, the PhD Program remains a hard process. Make sure you feel ready to counter the challenges and list the skills that will help you work with them, develop them in a real life example in your PhD Interview, for instance:

  • Perseverance

  • Networking

  • Development of skills in research methodology

  • Writing skills

  • Capabilities to take what you learn in conference/books etc

  • Time management

  • Work with short goals

  • Ask for help

  • Receive and work with feedback

  • Etc.

5. Why did you develop this proposal?

As discussed, you can also develop a proposal and defend it front of the jury, they will ask you why you want to develop this proposal and verify if your motivations are real. When you articulate your answer here; focus on the impact this research can have depending on the type of research. Emphasize what is in it for them by having you letting conduct these proposal in their University.

6. What difficulties will you expect to encounter during this project?

It is absolutely important here that you play the transparent card and that you articulate clearly the challenges you expect to face. The reason is because the jury with their experience will quickly identify the potential challenges you will face. You need to show them that you have thought about it and that you know almost everything about PhD and their challenges. Challenges is what makes PhD student quit their program but when you are able to identify them and even phrase how you plan to counter them, this will make the jury feel better about your application.

7. Tell us about a time you experienced a defeat or an obstacle?

A very common question to PhD Program is how you deal with defeat or obstacle. You can expect your supervisor to be pushing back on your research, to make you start again or to be challenging you strongly on your progress. Choose an example from your past experience when you have faced a setback, describe the situation and how you felt about it, but more importantly, explain how you overcome this challenge and the positive impact of this setback. The jury knows here as well that setback will be part of your PhD routine, they want to ensure that you able to handle them but also that you can carry on on the long term.

8. What are your future career plans?

As discussed in the introduction, the safe answer if you don’t know is to speak about your ambition to carry on in academy, in general they like students who wants to pursue a career there. However, it can sometimes not be the case, based on the type of research you will conduct. Also if you want to have a PhD Program and you already know what you want to do afterwards, explain it. They will be pleased to see a candidate with a clear designed career path. This is a strong example of your ability to plan and may add up on your determination capacity.

9. Do you have any questions for us?

The interview will also be for you an opportunity to see if this University is the right one to perform your PhD. As you know, conducting a PhD is not an easy thing to do and you want to ensure you will be rightly supported and surrounded. Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • How do you ensure work/ life balance in your students?

  • What does the supervisor of PhD Programs do to support career move?

  • How does your supervisor mentor your students?

  • What percentage of your student is hired in the academy after Phd programs?

  • How long on average your student needs to get their degree?

Read more about PhD Interviews