I have been invited to a PhD job interview at a German institute. In the job position description, there was not a specific topic mentioned. It was mainly general sentences about the research. Most general thing you would find in the application was something like this (this is slightly modified for the sake of confidentiality):

You will be analyzing our geological and biological data using advanced Machine Learning techniques in Python and blah-blah...

They had a few requirements and I was very well fit to the requirements. And I applied for the position because I am interested in using those techniques they mentioned, although they did not give any specific field area.

They ask me to prepare 15 minutes presentation talk about my master thesis and motivation about this specific PhD. As there was no anything special mentioned in the job post, do they expect me to come up with an idea and how and in which specific area I will be applying those techniques they require? In other words, do they want me to have a specific research question in my mind using those techniques? Honestly, I have no a specific idea what research question I want to takcle with for my PhD yet, as I am still a MSc student.

Also, I am a little surprised that they shortlisted me, as I am still a student and I mentioned in my application that I can only start when I finish my masters. Although they know this, they still want me to talk about my master thesis, which is still ongoing and I have only done 10% of it. Is it OK to give them a presentation explaining "I will be doing this and that" instead of "I have done this and that" ?

As I am already less likely to get the position offered (due to ongoing MSc studies) compared to a similar candidate with a degree done, I want to increase my chances as much as possible.

  • 2
    It's very common to apply for the next degree while still working on the previous one, so don't worry about that aspect. Commented Mar 29, 2021 at 10:41

1 Answer 1


Expectations in such an interview will be commensurate with your level of maturity. If you only just started your master thesis, it is indeed okay to explain how you plan to tackle the research question you are investigating. Regarding the PhD, it would be far too much to expect a full research plan for the full duration, but present the thoughts you have about the plan, and indicate an idea for a direction of a first research paper. Perhaps forecast where you might go from there, depending on the results.

The committee will know that you are in a particular phase of your masters, so you cannot be expected to already know everything about the PhD. What they would like to see is how you reason about the relevant topics, so show them how you think.

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