Dec 11 2020

Questions in Academic Interview

Sven Johanson


After submitting your application for PhD, Postdoc or Other Academic Positions, you may receive an invitation for interview from Professors. It is a great opportunity to show up your capability. If the interviewers trust you and think that you are a very potential candidate, you will have a high chance to get the offer. Thus, prepare your interview carefully.

Note that: If you are living near the office of employers, they may ask you come to have an interview. However, the interviews via Internet or telephone are the most interest now a day.

Here are some questions that Professors/ Employers may ask you:

  • Please introduce yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Do you think you will be able to modify these restrictions?
  • Have you ever been in leadership roles both in school and in life?
  • What makes you proud of yourself?
  • Tell me about your future plans (round next 5 years)
  • Why do you think that we should offer you this position?
  • What benefits we can get if we offer this position for you?
  • Why did you choose this research area?
  • Have you ever gone to abroad for any purpose? If so, where did you go?
  • What did you learn from those trips?
  • What is your future career goal?
  • If you do not receive this position, what will you do?
  • In your opinion, what is the most important character that a researcher need to have?
  • You look very knowledgeable, but why are your grades in average / good? Do you have any explanation for this?
  • You write in your resume that you enjoy XYZ in the world. So what work is your best work?
  • In the application form, did you say that you participated in international volunteer activities? Where are the nearest activities you have participated in?

Note that: You must be honest to answer questions. Never think that you can cheat interviewers, they are smart people and have very good human sense.

Below is an interview of PhD student who got the offer from US. Some sensitive information have been removed. (Source: vietphd.org)

Applicant: Hello!

Professor: Hello, is that .....? This is _____.

Applicant: Good morning _____. Sorry for the telephone connection just now.

Professor: It is OK. I would like to ask you a few questions.

Applicant: That’s good. Any questions about me will be welcome.

Professor: Why you choose Illinois?

Applicant: May I told a short story? ................. (joke :D)

Professor: haha, anything academic of the university fascinates you?

Applicant: Yes, its sciences and engineering rank high. But the main reason that I applied for UIUC is that I found your program, the one most suit my interest I have ever known so far :">.

Professor: Yes.

Applicant: Any other questions?

Professor: Yes, have you made the 10 years plan?

Applicant: I think I have mentioned some in my SOP. I want to be a scholar at the university level. For the first five years, I will pursue my Ph.D study.

Professor: You can pursue in five years or less time.

Applicant: After that, I will conduct postdoc research at the lab in universities or institutes. When I think I have gained sufficient experiences and practices, I may establish my lab and attempt to explore my own scientific world....blah blah....

Professor: I think ................ After 10 years there will be much opportunity for you.

Applicant: Good, but the first thing is you can give me the opportunity to purse Ph.D. study in Illinois ;;).

Professor: There are other universities where you can also pursue your Ph.D 8-}. So when will you complete your study?

Applicant: Before July :->.

Professor: So you can join us in this August?

Applicant: Yes :->.

Professor: This year some Professors will recruit new graduate students, AAA focusing on ...., Dr. BBB, ……Dr. CCC, Dr. DDDD…. and me.

Applicant: What about you =P~?

Professor: I will enroll one. It depends on the funding whether I will recruit more.

Applicant: I should apologize for contacting so many faculty at a time, which considerably increase your difficulty to coordinate, I think :-S.

Professor: Haha. This happened every year :)).

Applicant: Because I did not expect Professors in the program to be so easy-going and friendly :">. Most Professors I contacted, no matter whether they will recruit new members replied me. One of those is you, I noticed you even replied my email at night and on weekend, which will move me forward :">.

Professor: Yes.

Applicant: If I am accepted and it is permitted, I still deem you my first choice :">. Simple reason is that you replied my query email most early and we keep in touch with each other for the longest time :">.

Professor: Let me explain you more about the program. In the first year, ........... After that, in the second year, …Third years....

Applicant: A flexible and vigorous program, I think :|.

Professor: Yes, the students can finish their Ph.D pursuance in 4 and a half year..............

Applicant: Are they diligent and hard-working?

Professor: They work hard as me 8-}.

Applicant: Be careful of your health ;).

Professor: Yes, thank you.

Applicant: Any more questions? :|

Professor: If you work in ............ lab, you will work on ...........

Applicant: Yes :|.

Professor: Have you heard about ........?

Applicant: Yes, ............ For example, ........ First, is to ....... Then, we can ........ Finally, ....... I hope this answer can satisfy you :-B.

Professor: Yes, have you ever .......?

Applicant: No. My thesis is not focusing on this, but I ........

Professor: That is ............... You have not ...............?

Applicant: I am sorry :-SS.

Professor: Not being sorry. I just want to clarify the difference..............

Applicant: Thank you. Maybe I can learn if I come to Illinois ;;).

Professor: I have finished my questions. Do you have any?

Applicant: Yes, I would like to know which process has the reviewing process reached now? ;))

Professor: .............................

Applicant: Let move to other aspects :-&. I like music, which I think have stated clearly in my resume, so how I can explore this interest ?

Professor: ……go (somewhere)… once a month… Chicago…

Applicant: Do you go often?

Professor: I am a ……I like …… I go to opera.

Applicant: I think we share some common in this area.

Professor: Yes

Applicant: So, that is all my questions :->.

Professor: Good bye.

Applicant: I look forward to my academic future in UIUC :">.

Professor: haha

Applicant: Have a nice day, sir?>:D<

Professor: You, too

Applicant: Bye.

Professor: Bye.


Tags: Academic Interview,PhD Interview Questions,Postdoc Interview