Firstly, congratulations! If you’ve been invited to a PhD interview, it means that your application was solid enough to make the shortlist. That’s a small win. Now, onto the preparation for your interview. The PhD interview is an excellent opportunity for you to showcase why you’re a good fit for the programme. This requires you to prepare well for a successful admission. Here are some focus areas and tips for your interview.
Know your research proposal thoroughly
If you submitted a research proposal with your application, ensure that you read it thoroughly and know it well. There’s no such thing as overpreparation with your proposal. Of course, your proposal will be refined several times as you progress along the PhD, but for the interview, you can expect questions around the rationale, methods, and expected outcomes of your research. There can also be questions about the impact your research is likely to have. Also, have a think about the timelines of your project to answer questions around practicality and feasibility.
Research your interviewers
Your invite will indicate who is on your interview panel. Usually, they are likely to be your first and second supervisors. Although you may have contacted them previously and worked with them on your proposal, it’s advisable to read up on their work, research papers that they contributed to, their research interests and the work they’re presently involved in. All this information will be available on the faculty webpages of the department you’re applying to. Knowing this information will help you reiterate why and how you think their supervision will inform your work and how you hope to contribute to their on-going projects.
Brush up on technical know-how
There may be some questions around your past experience and academic background to gauge how well-suited your candidacy is for the topic and the programme you’re applying to. Additionally, these questions will also help your interview panel understand your training needs and how best they can be met to support your studies. Therefore, it’s necessary that you do some reading on the technical aspects of your research, the methodologies you’re proposing to deploy, the analytical tools you’ll be using among others. It’s advisable to be candid about your training needs and what you hope to gain from the programme.
Be sure about your motivations
The interview will be a discussion involving lots of “why” questions. Why do you want to do a PhD? Why do you want to go to LSE? Why do you want to research the topic you’re proposing? The answers for all these questions will be different but the common threads highlight your underlying motivations for applying to the PhD programme. Think long and hard about these questions before your interview. The interviewers want to understand your motivation and ensure that you recognise the commitment involved in signing up for a PhD programme. So don’t be afraid to get personal and really answer with your truest intentions.
The interviewers are likely to ask questions about your funding plans. If you’re planning to self-fund, you must state this clearly. If you’ve applied to funding opportunities, be sure to list them out along with when you’re expecting the decisions from the funding bodies. If you’ve applied to the department’s studentship opportunities, make sure you reiterate it during the discussion. While it’s not necessary to get into the fine details, it’s important that you clearly outline your plans around funding.
Final words of advice
Be reasonably confident. Prepare notes that you can refer to during the interview, if that is permitted. Ask questions about opportunities for collaboration, the research agenda in the department, or even the cohort size. Lastly, make sure to send in a thank-you note to your interviewers post your interview.
All the best! 😊