Interview Guidance

Online guidance 2: Preparing for the interview, and the interview process.

If you are shortlisted for an interview we want you to be comfortable and give your best performance
at interview, and as part of that we offer both in-person and online interviews. Our interview Chairs
are experienced at putting you at your ease, and so we hope that the interview will be a positive
experience. While the exact format of the interview will vary depending on the particular interview
panel, most INSPIRE PhD interviews start with some general questions on your academic and wider
experience (this is where you can talk about research that you’ve previously completed or are
currently doing), why you’re applying for a PhD, and how the PhD work might support your future
career goals. Our interviews also contain a “thought question”, where you are given some data or a
figure or diagram to discuss with the interview panel. You’ll receive this slightly in advance of the
interview – this is designed to let you show your wider thinking and arguments – effectively, to
describe what you see in the figure or diagram, and talk us (step-by-step) through your thought
process on what might be going on in the figure or data. These exercises are designed so that there
are no ‘right or wrong’ answers – rather, we are interested in hearing how you puzzle things out in
your mind. We do this to identify your skills in examining, discussing and interpreting scientific
information, and your PhD potential, rather than relying solely on listed qualifications, experience and

In the interview, we’re looking particularly for motivation and enthusiasm, both for the specific PhD
topic(s) and the wider field, including evidence of your understanding of what the PhD project is about
and why this PhD research might be important to wider society and our understanding of the
environment – a typical question might be “in 2 – 3 sentences explain why this work is important”. It’s
important that you’ve also read around the PhD topic – make sure you’ve read about the topic, and
also check the webpages of your potential supervisors for their background. Make sure that you’ve
“done your homework”, as this shows your enthusiasm for the project, and makes the interview more
rewarding for all! You’ll get the chance to discuss the project in advance of the interview with
supervisory team members, and ask them specific questions about the project. You can also ask the
prospective supervisor for advice about the interview. You are very welcome to contact your
prospective supervisor(s) ahead of an interview, and indeed this is a good idea – they will welcome
hearing from you.