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Phd scholarship interview? Tips, advice, experiences, etc

Hey everyone.

I am currently applying for PhDs etc, and I was recently shortlisted for a full scholarship offered by Edinburgh University (Edinburgh Doctoral College and School of GeoSciences Scholarships), based on my own proposal (e.g. not a defined topic).

The interview will be 25 minutes long, and will be a panel of 3 (one from each 'research institute' within the School), and will be on Zoom. I've been told they're hoping to interview 10 people (I assume this is the number they shortlisted, but 'hoping' because I guess some could decline the interview if they've already accepted funding elsewhere) all on one day for 3 scholarships. I've been told "the panel will ask you questions about your background and project to evaluate your preparedness to undertake a PhD in our school."

I was wondering if anyone had any advice or experiences of what such an interview is likely to be like? Given it's short length, and the number of people potentially being interviewed, is it safe to assume that the questions are likely to be more general/applicable to each candidate, rather than really nit-picking at your individual application - e.g. questions more like "What is novel about this proposal?" and not "You say XYZ in this proposal is novel, however XYZ was published ... can you substantiate that further?" In general, 25 mins seems like a pretty short amount of time to me when I've had job interviews that short they've always struggled to fit all the questions in lol.

For my actual applications, I just had more informal meetings with supervisors, who then all waived the interview requirement if there was one for admission by the department/university. So I haven't had a formal interview so far in this process, and am a bit stuck of what to expect! My last academic interview was for my undergrad at Cambridge as my MA didn't require one, and obv that's a very particular kettle of fish haha.
Original post by skarale
Hey everyone.

I am currently applying for PhDs etc, and I was recently shortlisted for a full scholarship offered by Edinburgh University (Edinburgh Doctoral College and School of GeoSciences Scholarships), based on my own proposal (e.g. not a defined topic).

The interview will be 25 minutes long, and will be a panel of 3 (one from each 'research institute' within the School), and will be on Zoom. I've been told they're hoping to interview 10 people (I assume this is the number they shortlisted, but 'hoping' because I guess some could decline the interview if they've already accepted funding elsewhere) all on one day for 3 scholarships. I've been told "the panel will ask you questions about your background and project to evaluate your preparedness to undertake a PhD in our school."

I was wondering if anyone had any advice or experiences of what such an interview is likely to be like? Given it's short length, and the number of people potentially being interviewed, is it safe to assume that the questions are likely to be more general/applicable to each candidate, rather than really nit-picking at your individual application - e.g. questions more like "What is novel about this proposal?" and not "You say XYZ in this proposal is novel, however XYZ was published ... can you substantiate that further?" In general, 25 mins seems like a pretty short amount of time to me when I've had job interviews that short they've always struggled to fit all the questions in lol.

For my actual applications, I just had more informal meetings with supervisors, who then all waived the interview requirement if there was one for admission by the department/university. So I haven't had a formal interview so far in this process, and am a bit stuck of what to expect! My last academic interview was for my undergrad at Cambridge as my MA didn't require one, and obv that's a very particular kettle of fish haha.


Hi @skarale,

Firstly, congratulations on the interview!

Yes, I would probably expect fairly generalised questions that can be applicable to each application e.g., 'how does your proposal fill a research gap or add to existing knowledge in the field' etc. They might ask some more specific questions about your proposal but at this stage you won't be expected to have done more than generalised reading so, I would expect those to be based more around your general methodology and timescale e.g., 'when do you anticipate undertaking your fieldwork, is there any specific training you will need to undertake in order to do X, what ethical safeguards do you intend to utilise when collecting Y information' etc.

My top tip for any interview is to demonstrate your passion for your topic. Don't get hung up on having to come across as 'formal' or 'academic'. Be yourself and don't be afraid to demonstrate your enthusiasm for the topic you have proposed, and the reasons that you want to work with your proposed supervisory team and/or this particular university.

Remember also that an interview is a two-way process. Think about any questions you might have about them and their research culture in advance. What opportunities will be available to you as a research student? How will they support you in presenting your work, conducting your PhD project, and ensuring you have opportunities to teach/demonstrate (if that's something you want to do)? How does your research fit into the wider research culture of their school/faculty? Do some research on the department before your interview to tailor your questions in this regard and then ask one or two at the end your interview. It'll demonstrate both that you've done some research and that you're interested and engaged in the research culture beyond your own project!

Final tip is don't forget to breath! What I mean by this is don't rush to answer. Take a couple of moments to digest what you're being asked by the interviewers and choose the most appropriate response. This might sound obvious but, if you're anything like me, it can be surprisingly hard to do! I hate silences and often want to immediately launch into an answer. But sometimes that doesn't always lead to the most considered response. Remember that it's okay to take a few seconds to think about your answer before you launch into a reply.

Hope that helps and good luck with the interview! :smile:

Amy Louise
PhD Candidate & Student Ambassador, Keele University
(edited 11 months ago)

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