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Here is what my potential supervisor said: "You do not need to prepare anything, I have kept all the documents you sent me." I only sent my CV, motivation letter and IELTS report to her.

And this is my first PhD interview ever, what will this kind of interview be like? Answering questions like "why PhD" and describing my research experience without PPT? I don't think I can show my research ability without presenting data and figures, so what should I prepare?

This is my FIRST interview and I really love this project, so any advise about PhD interview is welcome!

Plus: should I read the professor's papers? should I ask her about details of the interview, like the number of people I'll be meeting and their names?

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    You don't need to prepare anything, apparently.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 23, 2023 at 1:52
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    Consider asking some of your current professors you get along with for a few minutes of their time and conducting a practice interview. You may find it helps accustom you to the process, interviews are a specific skill set. Apr 23, 2023 at 2:45

2 Answers 2

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You should just be ready to have conversations about research. Conversations about your research, conversations about theirs, conversations about your research goals, conversations about what you might do with this professor if they become your advisor. There are very few people in the world that share your specific research interests: this is an opportunity to talk to one of them!

You should be ready to discuss your research in a conversation. That doesn't mean you need to memorize numbers or equations but you should know off the top of your head what you've done: what were your hypotheses, what were your methods, what were your results?

Similarly, you don't need to memorize all the papers by the professor you are interviewing with, but you should have some idea of what sorts of things they do so you can ask questions about what you would be doing in their lab.

Remember an interview isn't about the professor "grading" you, you should both be using the interview to determine if you'd be a good fit. There are lots of questions here about choosing an advisor - might be helpful to read through some to get ideas of other questions you might ask about mentorship style, frequency of meetings, etc.

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    Thank you for your advice! It really helped me a lot when I prepared. And I got the offer today!
    – xuehua an
    May 3, 2023 at 0:58
  • @xuehuaan Congratulations! I hope it's a good fit for you!
    – Bryan Krause
    May 3, 2023 at 1:08
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First of all, don't overthink it -- the professor doesn't expect you to prepare anything, so doing any kind of extensive "homework" and reading all the professor's recent papers really isn't necessary! You could just show up and be ready to talk, and that would be fine.

The most important thing -- and you can think of this as a preparation of sorts, if you like -- is that you should be ready explain your background and why the professor's group makes sense for you. I've found that many students try to read papers, but you may not have the background to truly understand those papers, so it's not necessarily helpful. What's more helpful is if you have a good reason for wanting to join a research project in this professor's area X. For example:

  • What made you interested in X?

  • Did you take a class in X or have prior background in it?

  • What makes you excited to work on X?

This is my FIRST interview and I really love this project

This is the sentence in your post that would make me most likely to hire you -- make sure you mention it! Excitement about a project is not only contagious, it's almost always a great sign in potential students, and often goes much further than any technical preparation.

Good luck!

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    Thank you for your advice! It really helped me a lot when I prepared. And I got the offer today!
    – xuehua an
    May 3, 2023 at 0:58
  • @xuehuaan That's awesome to hear, congratulations! :) May 3, 2023 at 15:16

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