I am invited to an online interview for a PhD position. Actually, it is my first time. What are the contents of the interview? What issues are usually discussed in these interviews? Am I supposed to represent a proposal in the context of research, at that time? Which parameters can increase the acceptance chance?

  • By online interview, do you mean something like a Skype interview? – PatW Aug 20 '13 at 20:39
  • @PatW, Yes, exactly. – Topdombili Aug 20 '13 at 20:46
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    in which field? do you know who's going to interview you? – seteropere Aug 20 '13 at 21:01
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    If it is Skype, you may expect as close format to the "live" interview as the current technology permits them to achieve. So, the word "online" here is not very important in terms of what to expect. However, it gives you one extra headache: make sure that your computer and your internet connection work well! If it all hangs up for an hour in the middle, there won't be much fun for either side... – fedja Aug 21 '13 at 2:27
  • I am not sure if either of these are duplicates: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1137/… and academia.stackexchange.com/questions/5983/… – StrongBad Aug 21 '13 at 10:35

I work in a program for computational science, and we do online interviews with all of the qualified candidates for both our dual-degree (master's-PhD) and doctoral programs.

Because we are a rather broad program, we tend not to favor "quizzes" that test knowledge. Instead, we are looking for things like:

  • Ability to communicate in English
  • Enthusiasm for computational science (many people think we're a computer science program, instead of a computational science program!)
  • Match for the research interests of one or more of our institute members (particularly for dual-degree candidates)
  • Previous experience in computational science
  • Evidence of teamwork and ability to fit our program

There's no real way to "game" the system, at least in my interview, unless you want to invent an entirely new personality for yourself. That's because most of my questions are free-form after the first few, and will try to explore the answers you've given in greater depth. For instance, if a candidate expresses an interest in fluid mechanics, I'll ask what they've done, what makes it interesting, what they'd like to do in the future. If someone happens to express interest in my area (computational materials), things will go in yet another direction altogether.

The best advice is be yourself. If you try to come off as someone you're not, that will likely show up during the interview.

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In my case (machine learning), background knowledge of the field and previous publications are the most important parts. My supervisor enumerated the names of the sub-fields and asked whether I know about them. I need to give different level of introductions or explanations according to my familiarity. As for the publications, I have little publications so I had to explain my thesis at great detail. Actually my supervisor was not satisfied and I had to write several pages of "abstract" later. At last, my supervisor asked me to the read the xxx page of his paper and derive the differential of a complex function right away. I made some minor errors but finally got myself through.

UPDATE: In my case I don't think my supervisor was "quizzing" me, but try to obtain a rough impression of my background. For me, the point was to articulate what I have known and not to boast on what I don't know. And I was also asked about the ability of English communication and teamwork.

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