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I am applying to several computer science PhD programs, and several professors who I mentioned in my statement of purpose have reached out requesting Skype interviews. My question is: how often are these requests made? Should I be very encouraged or is this standard procedure for almost all qualified applicants?

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    "Should I be very encouraged ..." -- why not? You are at the time in your life when optimism is appropriate. I would be encouraged even if it were standard procedure (which it isn't). Jan 31 '18 at 11:12
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    Are you asking about whether you should expect an interview request at all, or whether you should be discouraged because they want to do it via Skype rather than in person?
    – Barmar
    Jan 31 '18 at 21:17
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Time is one of the most valuable resources for professors – I know no one who just offers interviews for fun.

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Should I be very encouraged or is this standard procedure for almost all qualified applicants?

Be very encouraged. I can guarantee you that they don't do it for all "qualified" applicants, because nobody has the time to do that. In my institution in Sweden, for any given call, we may get somewhere between 25 and 150 applications. Even of only a third of those are qualified, it is easy to see that the hiring faculty member can't interview everybody who is qualified even for a call that received comparably little attention. I typically interview about 3 to 5 people per call, and I would presume that this is fairly normal.

That said, take the call very seriously. In the past I have been highly disappointed with how badly prepared many applicants were in these Skype calls (e.g., I usually ask beforehand that candidates do a short 10-min presentation of their master's thesis and some candidates have no presentation prepared, or candidates who have obviously not even looked at my website and clearly have no idea what kind of research I actually do). I never hire applicants that seem ill-prepared for the interview.

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  • Just a note, it's a little confusing to refer to both the Skype call and the call for applicants as just "a call." Jan 31 '18 at 23:19
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Should I be very encouraged or is this standard procedure for almost all qualified applicants?

It's to be expected that lead researchers would want and need to have a proper conversation with a PhD applicant. It's almost like a job interview.

But beyond just pointing this out, I believe you should see your surprise as indication that you may have gone about your application process in not quite the right way.

In my opinion, when looking for a place to do Ph.D. research, you need to take the time to get in touch with the relevant research groups and their primary researchers, to understand what their interest and foci are, to introduce yourself, to figure out potential directions you would pursue if you joined them - all things which would have gotten you in touch with those "professors who I mentioned in my statement of purpose" (and as is understood, have not contacted before).

Had you done so, you would likely have thought of such Skype conversations as something you want to do anyway, regardless of the admission process, and that could be beneficial for you in itself. Assuming these are academic worth their salt, face-time with them is something you should be able to benefit from.

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