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 background.
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.