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Intern
Joined: 09 Aug 2009
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17 Jan 2010, 11:32
I've posted this question in the "Returning; open for questions" thread, but I thought that an independent thread on this topic may be in order, as I haven't been able to find one specifically on PhD admission interviews (please correct me if I am wrong).

I have talked with a few PhD students on this topic and have received wildly different responses. An American that I talked to said that in his experience, PhD interviews aren't really "interviews", they are more like an attempt by the people in the department to try to convince you to come to their school (i.e., they have pretty much made up their mind to select you by the time of the interview). On the other hand, I talked to a couple of foreign students and they said that they were grilled on their past classes and even made to critically analyze a journal article and report back a few days later (i.e., the results of the interview matter when they are deciding to admit you). All of these students were from the same PhD program and of the same "caliber", but they didn't have the same interview experiences.

Any current PhD students care to weigh in? What can we expect in a PhD admissions interview? Thanks in advance.
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19 Jan 2010, 08:10
phd2010 wrote:
I have talked with a few PhD students on this topic and have received wildly different responses. An American that I talked to said that in his experience, PhD interviews aren't really "interviews", they are more like an attempt by the people in the department to try to convince you to come to their school (i.e., they have pretty much made up their mind to select you by the time of the interview). On the other hand, I talked to a couple of foreign students and they said that they were grilled on their past classes and even made to critically analyze a journal article and report back a few days later (i.e., the results of the interview matter when they are deciding to admit you). All of these students were from the same PhD program and of the same "caliber", but they didn't have the same interview experiences.

Were these students all in the same field? Even if there's a common screening at the (general) b-school level, admissions analysis and interviews are conducted at the department level (e.g. an Accounting faculty member will look at interesting accounting candidates, and so on for Marketing, Finance..), so whatever happens in the interview mostly depends on the interviewer. Based on my experience, it was clear from all 3 interviews I had that the faculty member I talked had already made up his/her mind and was mostly chatting with me to make sure I was fluent enough in English (as an international applicant), and whether I was seriously thinking about going there or not. To me, the "analyze a journal article" approach is nothing short of outrageous.
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19 Jan 2010, 09:37
cabro57 wrote:
phd2010 wrote:
I have talked with a few PhD students on this topic and have received wildly different responses. An American that I talked to said that in his experience, PhD interviews aren't really "interviews", they are more like an attempt by the people in the department to try to convince you to come to their school (i.e., they have pretty much made up their mind to select you by the time of the interview). On the other hand, I talked to a couple of foreign students and they said that they were grilled on their past classes and even made to critically analyze a journal article and report back a few days later (i.e., the results of the interview matter when they are deciding to admit you). All of these students were from the same PhD program and of the same "caliber", but they didn't have the same interview experiences.

Were these students all in the same field? Even if there's a common screening at the (general) b-school level, admissions analysis and interviews are conducted at the department level (e.g. an Accounting faculty member will look at interesting accounting candidates, and so on for Marketing, Finance..), so whatever happens in the interview mostly depends on the interviewer. Based on my experience, it was clear from all 3 interviews I had that the faculty member I talked had already made up his/her mind and was mostly chatting with me to make sure I was fluent enough in English (as an international applicant), and whether I was seriously thinking about going there or not. To me, the "analyze a journal article" approach is nothing short of outrageous.

Yes, these students were all in the same field. However, their interview experiences may have been with different schools. They didn't really mention anything like, "School X made me do this and School Y made me do that." Even though they didn't mention specific schools when telling me about their interview experiences, I think that they all applied to schools of the same caliber.
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20 Jan 2010, 08:43
phd2010 wrote:
Yes, these students were all in the same field. However, their interview experiences may have been with different schools. They didn't really mention anything like, "School X made me do this and School Y made me do that." Even though they didn't mention specific schools when telling me about their interview experiences, I think that they all applied to schools of the same caliber.

Of course; I didn't read correctly, sorry about that. The objectives of an interview likely differ from one school to the other and are almost surely dependent on the type of PhD program. The feeling I had at the time (consistent with one of the two 'types' of anecdotal evidence you offer) is that the most important objective was to assess the odds of me accepting the offer that they might extend to me. Many PhD programs are rather small and have 1-2 entering students every year per field, and many of those programs do not have a waitlist from which to pick second-best candidates if the best one declines the offer -- they simply won't have entering students that year. So they'll just make 1-2 offers, and they don't want to waste it on someone whose mind is set on going elsewhere.
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10 Apr 2010, 10:38
One of my application forms has what to me seemeed like a weird question at first:
"Are you applying for other post-graduate programs? If so, please give details."
Considering your comments, this question makes a lot more sense now. I guess I need to show them some love in my answer.
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