Hi there! First of all, thank you so much for the positive feedback about that first post on phone/Skype interviews – I’m so glad you all enjoyed it so much. Here’s the follow-up post about tips directly related to phone/Skype interviews for grad school.
This post applies to those readers interested in going to graduate school. When you apply to grad school sometimes professors will want to do a phone/Skype interview before inviting you to the school for their open house. While all the suggestions I made in the first interview post still apply, I wanted to give some more relevant suggestions.
Ask questions you can’t find the answers to on the website
Make sure you have good questions planned ahead of time. Write them down, and have them in front of you during the interview. Your questions should be relevant to the research the professor conducts. A follow-up question about a paper you read, or query about a current study that’s going on in the lab should do the trick. Ask about where alumni are working now, and about the kinds of experiences and responsibilities you would get as a grad student in their lab.
Again, know your resume
I can’t stress this enough. Make sure you know every line of your resume or CV – have something to say for each item/experience on there. Professors will dig deep and ask questions about any and all of your experiences listed on there. Be sure you can say something about each of them.
Be prepared to talk about yourself
Have a 10-15 second elevator pitch ready. Inevitably, the first questions will be something like “Tell me about yourself” or “What have you been up to lately?” So, prepare in advance. If you’re currently and undergrad, be sure you can talk about what you’re doing now (i.e. research experiences, courses you’re interested in, projects you’re working on). If you’re working during a gap year, be prepared to talk about your daily responsibilities in a succinct and clear way.
Your research experiences
This one is big, especially for PhD students. Professors want to know about your prior research experience, your role in those research projects, and the kinds of things you learned. As you’re going through your resume/CV prepare a few sentences about how your different research experiences have shaped you, what your responsibilities were in those projects, and what you liked about them.
Your research interests
The next big piece professors are looking for is a clear understanding of what students want out of their graduate program, specifically, what your research interests are. They want to make sure your research interests line up with theirs, and your career goals line up with what the program provides. Have a few sentences prepared of the kinds of topics and ideas that interest you about the research field you’re applying to. Be honest, and mean what you say. The last thing you want is to lie about your interests, just to make it sound like you’re a good fit, and then realize once you get here that no one is doing research that interests you.
Last bit of advice…
Always, always send a follow-up thank you email to the professor who interviewed you.