I am having a PhD interview at a university in the US. The application procedure didn't involve submitting a research proposal, so I am not very sure what kind of questions I should expect.

A professor contacted me to schedule an interview, I wanted to ask what kind of questions are expected, because I do not know the project they think I fit in, in fact, one of the purposes of this interview is to tell me about the project.

So is it okay to ask the interviewer what to prepare?

  • Have you already been offered admission, or is this part of the admissions process itself? (If the latter, it's kind of late in the game to be holding interviews for admissions decisions, isn't it?)
    – aeismail
    Commented Apr 4, 2013 at 20:57
  • I haven't been offered admission yet. Seems to me that I passed the university acceptance criteria, and now in the departmental acceptance part. Why do you think it is late for admission decisions? Commented Apr 5, 2013 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


Firstly, I want to point out that my opinions are based on my own experiences. Having said that a few years ago I interviewed with professors form several "top" ranked computer science, information science and business programs for potential doctoral admissions. Second, I have an admissions season's worth of experience from the "other" side where I have interviewed potential PhD applicants as well.

You do not need a research proposal. In fact, treat this "interview" as a conversation between an academic and a potential future colleague. There is nothing to "prepare" per se. Basically, what's going to happen is that the professor is going to ask you about your research interests and experiences in greater detail than what can be evidenced from your CV or publications. You will have the chance to tell him all about yourself. Do not mis-represent yourself or veer off paths you have not trodden before. What's also going to happen is that this professor will tell you about his project or his lab if he a potential adviser or person whom you want to work with during your PhD.


There is nothing ask him about preparation. Just be ready to discuss your own works and have some questions ready to ask him. Just treat it as a discussion between two professionals and you will be fine.

  • 3
    This is exactly what happened. I'd just add that it would be good to check the work of that interviewer (if you know him prior to the interview), and relate it to your work, think how your experiences can benefit the projects he/she is working on. The interviewer will want to know if you're willing and interested in working on the project he has in mind. Note: interviews in Europe are usually much different than that, you get to submit a research proposal to show them your research skills. The interview in this case would be only a discussion of your proposal, making it more technical. Commented Apr 8, 2013 at 14:16

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