questionswhat are your best interview tips?


Make sure you wear pants.

In all seriousness, though, make sure you are prepared to answer questions about why you want the position, why you are a good fit for the position, and what you can offer that makes you a better candidate than others.

Also, do not be awkward. People don't want to work with awkward people if they can help it. I've interviewed dozens of people and some were just too quiet or too loud or not personable or too fake friendly and I couldn't imagine having to interact with them on a daily basis or, even worse, let them get near clients.


I'm not sure how applicable this is, but the interviews I've done for my research positions have usually been more technically focused. Most of the conversation was about my experience, the projects I worked on, etc. The questions seemed to be designed to gauge my knowledge and expertise more than my personality or professionalism.

Obviously, it wouldn't hurt to be personable, but I think that if you know what you're doing and can confidently express it, you'll be fine.


Don't BS. If you're asked a technical question and don't know the answer, say so. An honest person has the ability to learn a skill, but someone who tries to act like they know something when they really don't worries me.

Know the job you're applying for and know how well you fit. Be prepared to explain why you're a good candidate.

And, as always, it's not what you know, it's who you know. Use whatever internal contacts you have to make sure you're ready for the interview. Find out what interests and/or problems the people you'll be talking to have and make sure your answers demonstrate that you're able to help them.


Make sure you know the company that you're trying to get a job with. Going that extra step might gain you extra points. Also, try doing a mock interview with someone so they can give you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses. I've heard that sending a thank you card can boost your chances somewhat, too.


Every interview"er" is different. If you are able to gauge that they are the type that want to do all the talking, let them, and interject only when appropriate. Do NOT "one-up" their story or scenario that might come up in conversation.

If the interview is all questions, no non-sense type of interview, be confident but not cocky (there is a fine line depending on your personality). And watch your demeanor and carriage. Try to not nervously twittle a pen, shake your knee up and down, or shift your weight back and forth. Try not to listen with your neck out, making your nose and chin go up.

If this ends up being panel style, address the person asking the question first, then alternate looking at the other interviewers as you answer (this shows you are comfortable with them and the question)

Be ready to answer the, "what would your contributions be to our program" kind of questions; how you see yourself in the position and how you are unique and a potential good fit.


@heyjoie: I think this question has been asked in similar form many times, but with the growth in size of the community, it's tough to find them. It's a good question, and I don't mind answering it.

I spent many years on the hiring side of interviews, and often was the person who did the thumbs up (or down) on a candidate's technical skills. There were also interviews for candidates who wanted fellowships (company pays your salary while you go to school, and you sign saying you'll stay for X years after you get the degree).

As others have said, if you don't know, admit it. My favorite answer was always "I don't know, but here's what I'd do to find that answer." I went out of my way to ask questions in search of "I don't know" since the last thing we would want to hire was a person who didn't have that phrase in their vocabulary.

You didn't say which field you are in. Note the proper attire, and conform to it. This is IMPORTANT.



@heyjoie: I expect you are in school now, and your application for the PhD was encouraged by one or more of your current professors. They should know who is likely to be on the list of interviewers. Most schools that I know of don't usually start with a one-to-one interview, but this may have changed (or be different at your University or College).

Get adequate sleep. This seems obvious, but often is not.

Expect to hear questions that may not pertain to your field, and plan how you will either deflect (if personal) or answer (if it seems useful to answer).

I take it this is the first interview. Many fields have only one, but just as many have multiples. Try to take notes on what you were asked, on what you think you did well on, and where you think your failings might be (failings as to being interviewed, that is). If it's a board, and at least one person on it is friendly to you, see if they'll provide general counseling after.

Good luck!


Be honest. A experienced interviewer knows that liars make good first impressions and personally when I smell BS in an interview I press the BS issue. For example I had an interview with someone that told me they were late because they had a flat tire (they were about 10 minutes late). I noticed he had a white button down on that was in good shape and pressed no grease on his hands or dirt on his knees. I poke at this issue with him and he tells me he used to work in a tire shop and has changed and balanced so many tires he could do it in his sleep and goes on to tell me that he used a donut which is easier to handle etc. The interview continues and the warning light in my head is still blinking because this guy is "too good" and the interview concludes and I am letting him out of the office (visitors need escorts at my workplace) and he gets real antsy when I follow him to his car attempting to chit chat and see all 4 wheels and tires intact.


Confidence and common sense. Be confident in yourself and your ability and you will always stick out to interviewers. I've interviewed a lot of prospects, and opted for less qualified people because their belief in themselves and their .

Keep answers basic. Don't ramble, and always keep eye contact.


Be enthusiastic about the job. Do some research first so you can talk about the company and what excites you about working there. If you have more than one interviewer, treat them both with respect. I think men are sometimes unaware of the ways in which they do not show women respect. For example, I was interviewing people to be my assistant a few years ago. My male supervisor sat in on the interviews, but applicants were aware that the position would be working for me. The most qualified applicant was a guy who never made eye contact with me, and addressed all his answers to my supervisor, even though I was the one asking most of the questions. I don't think the guy was being deliberately rude, I've had the same thing happen with guys on any number of occasions. But I also didn't think he was going to be a good fit as my assistant, so we hired the second most qualified person.


All the above advice is good. The one thing I would add is, don't be afraid to ask questions. If you have done your research about the position and employer (Professor), it is natural to have questions. This shows that you did indeed research and are trying to figure out how best you would fit into the scheme of things. Be gentle in your questions, and make sure you are wording them in a way that is beneficial to both. You don't want to come off like a jerk, but want to show genuine curiosity about the position and the things that may effect it. It helps create a more indepth interview, and a better lasting impression.

As a side note, don't forget to sincerely thank your interviewer(s) for the time and consideration. Take this little extra time to ask any small question or make an observation relavant to the interview you didn't have time to during the interview.


This is why I love Deals.Woot. Ask a question, sleep on it, and everybody's provided all kinds of helpful responses when you come back the next day. Thanks for all the great advice, everybody!

@90mcg112: No pants and no awkward---sound advice indeed. But really, the three questions you mentioned are the three I need to focus on a little more than I have, so thank you.

@liberati: There won't be a ton of technical questions, but there will definitely be some discussion of my ability in some areas (e.g. research). I'll spend some time making sure I'm prepared for those.

@rhmurphy: Good advice--I'd much rather look like a fool for not knowing something than a fool because I made up a clearly wrong answer!

@eijisama: YES, thank you for reminding me about the thank you card. And I am definitely trying to get to know the school as much as possible beforehand... I actually got a suit that sort of coordinates with their colors as well, haha.


@woothulhu: I feel confident now, but it's always a different story in the interview, eh? Thanks for the don't ramble advice. It's hard for me to know how in-depth an answer to give, but I'd rather be brief when possible.

@moondrake: Oh my word, I'm intrigued by your story--how insulting. I'm a woman so I hope I would never do that unconsciously, but isn't it sad that such a thing even happens? And at this point, I'm just trying to keep my enthusiasm from overtaking me.

@pyxientx: Thank you for your advice about questions. I've been formulating some, but I appreciate your advice for formulating them--especially about making it "beneficial to both." It's a delicate kind of thing, I suppose, and I need to put a little more thought into the questions I have.


@mellielou: Loved your body language advice. I know that avoiding fidgeting is going to be tough for me--I'm one of those people that's always fidgeting, even when not nervous! Also, thank you for the advice about panel interviews. I have no idea what the set-up will be, and panel is the concept that makes me most nervous.

@shrdlu: I thought someone would have asked this exact question but couldn't find it! :) I LOVE your suggestion of "Here's what I'd do to find the answer." This is for a clinical psychology program; I went with a suit because I figure if only some people wear one, I want to be one of those people. Unfortunately, my former professors don't know anyone at the school I'm interviewing with. Could I ask you to elaborate on what you mean by a personal question I might have to deflect?

@phizzo: That story is outrageous! I love that you were determined to find the truth, ha. Fortunately for me, I'm such a terrible liar that honestly is basically the only policy. :P


@heyjoie: Good for you on responding to all of us. applause

You said "Could I ask you to elaborate on what you mean by a personal question I might have to deflect?"

Why yes, I could.

Sometimes an interviewer will ask things such as whether or if you have children, and while it's suitable to answer, you need to have a planned response that is basically yes (or no), and then move on to other things. You don't want to be caught up in how many, or whether you should, or what kind of daycare. Those things are orthogonal to your quest. Some interviewers are sneaky and evil. I was usually both.

Many people think that such questions are illegal to ask. They are not; that's urban legend. It's illegal to base hiring decisions on the answers, and most places tread a fine line, but you can ask almost anything (whether it's for employment, or a preliminary PhD program interview).

Your choice of clothing is perfect.



@heyjoie: [Continued]
Since there won't be a familiar face on the panel, do your best to know things about them ahead of time. I do not suggest this because you will be using it to chat about (although bringing up research done by your future colleagues is not a bad thing to do), but because it will give you some feel for who will be supportive of you, and who will not.

I've seen so many schools of thought in your field come and go, from Behaviorism (yes, I'm old enough to remember Skinner Boxes, and to say that his daughter NEVER forgave him) to Gestalt, and have a reasonably decent background in Cognitive Science, with random bits here and there on neurophysiology. Life is long, and fame is fleeting (I don't always agree with Ars Longa, Vita Brevis).


@pyxientx: Thanks for asking! :D I had planned on updating once I got either an offer or rejection from the school, but in the meantime, I think everything went really well! Aside from some minor travel woes, that is. :) The interviews were great though, and I reviewed (and used!) everyone's advice.

Since I didn't contribute to the thread, here's my interview tip, recently passed on to my boyfriend from a recruiter: A great question to ask when given the opportunity is, "What concerns do you have about me as an applicant?" Gives you a chance to gauge their interest in you as well as the opportunity to address those concerns, if possible.


@heyjoie: I am glad the interview went well, and that the things posted were helpful in your endeavor.

Thanks for the new suggestion. It will be helpful to other applicants.

Good luck, and keep us posted. Happy Valentines Day.


Well, I'm happy to say that yesterday evening the program called to make me an offer!! :D I'm very excited. Thanks again so much for the suggestions, everybody!