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Recently I've been invited to a PhD interview, for a three-year program. They are asking me to book two whole days for the interviews. The invitation asks me be avaliable "from 9am on Day X to 3pm on Day X+1", for a large number of talks, one-on-one interviews, and meetings with current employees.

In addition, they are asking me to prepare a "job talk" describing my papers. The whole thing is very similar to how my senior colleagues describe faculty interviews.

I am doing a research internship in industry during interview season. As I've applied to several programs, I am not able to take two full days of vacation for every application.

This is a well-established program in my field.

  • Is this particular program an exception, and other positions I've applied to will have less time-consuming interviews?
  • Or, is the whole field like this? I am afraid of how faculty interviews will look like for my cohort, given the PhD interviews.
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    Hi and welcome to Academia SE. Where in Europe? Europe is not a uniform block and each country has its own traditions. In my experience, a two-day interview for a PhD position is uncommon, but there may be exceptions.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Dec 7 '21 at 11:42
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    Thank you for your reply. I do not think specifying the country is crucial, as the programs may differ a lot even within countries. Most of my applications are in German-speaking areas. Dec 7 '21 at 13:01
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    It certainly sounds like it might be challenging if you have a half-dozen two-day interviews like that as far as your current position is concerned. On the other hand, twelve days of talking with dozens of scientists and researchers in a bunch of different research groups sounds like nirvana to me :-) Remember, you get to ask questions too! And you should try to make the most of that. Will you get fired from your current position if you do something that extensive? Or will it just cause strain but not break your current situation? Can you offer to make up time nights and weekends?
    – uhoh
    Dec 7 '21 at 13:26
  • You say a "PhD interview." Are you interviewing to be a PhD student, or for a job that requires a PhD? Dec 7 '21 at 18:14
  • I am interviewing to become a PhD student. Dec 7 '21 at 18:23
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Is this particular program an exception, and other positions I've applied to will have less time-consuming interviews? Or, is the whole field like this?

I believe this rigid and formal process is an exception to the rule, though may be relevant these days to some machine learning programs, as you attest. On the other hand, it is not exceptional and to be expected that PhD application process is a long one. Usually it is long, but takes a much less formal form, like many informal discussions between the potential supervisor and the candidate.

Note: PhD applications are sometimes more risky than faculty positions: a single staff member invest a lot of their time, and sometimes their own grant money, and failure to complete the PhD is at times more damaging than letting off a staff member.

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I have seen this type of interview strategies especially for PhD schools rather than individual projects. In those schools the students still need to be matched to potential advisors. So in those days the candidates can see what (funded) projects and advisors are available, while the advisors can see what candidates are available. The meetings with current students is there to be informative for the candidates.

Whether or not you can get around that, or reduce the time you are there, depends on the program (and the number of candidates).

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I know the answer is tagged , but I will answer for the for future readers.

Yes, multi-day processes for PhD interviews are common. Two days is probably the median, at least pre-COVID, where the program would typically fly you out, and wine-and-dine you. (Probably the best they'll ever treat you, but I digress ...)

It is not usually 8 hours of intense interviewing, but a mix of interviews, meeting students, information from administrators, social events, etc.

This can mean taking a lot of time off, but if you are coming from an academic position, they are usually understanding. If you're coming from industry, unfortunately there's little I can suggest other than turning some down.

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  • I guess I will just decide upon the one or two applications I have the best chances with, because I just do not have enough days to take off. One issue is that I need to confirm or reject this interview before other programs communicate interview invitations... Dec 7 '21 at 18:33
  • @phdapplicant You can try asking for a reduced schedule (if it's virtual), only attending the most important interviews Dec 7 '21 at 18:35
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    In the US most departments I know only do this for accepted students; not as part of the interview/pre-acceptance phase…
    – Dawn
    Dec 7 '21 at 19:56
  • @Dawn Really? I would have said the opposite, in fact my current dept is considered somewhat unusual in that they only do it for accepted students, not interviewing ones. I had one two-day interview session and one two-day accepted student weekend. Most people I talked to were juggling many two/three day interview sessions. Dec 7 '21 at 20:03
  • Oh I now see the machine learning tag. I am speaking from engineering and economics perspective so perhaps that is different?
    – Dawn
    Dec 7 '21 at 21:24

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