Graduate School Interview
After you've turned in your application materials, some programs may request to interview you. An interview is a chance to explain and display your talents, and for you and the school to learn more about each other. They interview mey be conducted in person at the school or by phone. Not all schools do interviews; ask each admissions office if they do.
Tips for Graduate School Interviews
You'll work very closely with the faculty of the program. Therefore it's essential you fit well with them. Present yourself as a confident, open, capable student. Note the connections between the program (including its faculty and research) and your own background and goals. Build a rapport and show an interest in your interviewers.
Do advance research
The program's faculty information is probably online (most post bios and CVs). Familiarize yourself with the academic background, publications and research interests of professors in the program, and/or your potential interviewers. Also note aspects of the program that make it stand out from other programs.
Write out and memorize 2 or 3 talking points. Be sure to express those during your interview when you have an opening to do so. Also prepare at least 5 questions to ask the interviewers. Plan to ask about assistantships or other opportunities that would allow you to gain practical experience there.
Promptly send a thank-you note to the program director and any students or faculty you interacted with at the interview.
Learn more about interviewing
Browse our Effective Interviewing Guide. It focuses on job interviews, but many of its tips apply to any type of interview.
You can do practice interviews online anytime. Record the interview if you want to, and choose your questions.
Visit our office to browse books and handouts about interviewing and grad schools.
In-Person Interview Tips
Be positive and genuine the whole time
From the moment you step on campus until the moment you leave, you're being interviewed—by instructors, office staff, and current students. You're also being compared to other applicants competing for the same spots. Treat every interaction as an opportunity to demonstrate you'd be a quality addition to their program. Smile, be genuine, and show an interest in everyone you meet.
Dress professionally and be on time
This projects the attitude that you're serious about being a successful students, and you understand the demands of graduate school. When in doubt about appropriate clothing, wear a suit. Get more clothing tips from What to Wear to a Job Interview—tips that are applicable to any professional situation.
Bring a briefcase or nice bag
Keep in it a writing pad, pen, and copies of your resume/cv. Use it to store the business cards you gather during your visit. Throw in some snacks and water.
Be prepared to answer questions about any weaknesses in your application
For example, if you have a low GRE score or GPA, you may be asked about it.
Prepare to be sociable
Often you'll attend a get-together the night before the interview. you'll meet and dine with current students and faculty in a relaxed setting. Be mindful of etiquette and limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage if others are drinking. It's best not to drink at all, so you can be in top form that night and the next morning.
At some point in a day-long interview, you might be asked to participate in a group project
You'll be placed with other students or applicants and asked to brainstorm together or create something. The interviewers will observe you during this, taking note of both the results and the group dynamics. While you're in the group, speak up and share your thoughts and opinions, but don't dominate.
Phone Interview Tips
Dress up and use good posture
That might seem unnecessary for a phone interview, but it can really impact the way you express yourself verbally. It'll help you stay professional and confident during the phone interview.
Be aware of your voice quality
Speak loudly enough to be heard, and articulate yourself clearly. Avoid "up-talking" or "swooping" your voice at the end of statements, so they don't sound like questions. If you're really nervous, remember to breathe slowly and relax as much as possible.
Eliminate all potential interruptions and background noise
Let your roommates know you can't be interrupted during the call. Turn off the TV, music, computer, and nearby cell phones.
Monitor your conversational pauses
When you need a moment to think, say so. The interviewer can't see you and won't be able to see your "let me think a minute" body language, so don't leave them hanging.