I have a PhD interview coming up, and, due to the field I'm in, I think that it will be very competitive. Therefore, I was wondering if anyone has any tips on how to stand out at a PhD interview, as I really have my heart set on this one, but I'm very nervous when it comes to being interviewed.
Also, does anyone have a rough idea about how many applicants a PhD in the Earth Sciences may receive?
Before I had interviews for PhD positions, my old supervisor from my Masters degree told me that there are usually two types of PhD candidates who can be successful at interview. One is someone who is absolutely perfect for the position - their previous experience, knowledge and interests all match the research project so perfectly that it seems to have been written just for them. My supervisor said this candidate is extremely unusual, but if they turn up at an interview nobody else stands a chance, however well they do in the interview. The second type, he said, is much more common - someone whose experience, interest and knowledge can be adapted to suit the research project. These candidates, he said, can all be good in the PhD role, and it just comes down to who seems to be most adaptable and who seems to connect at the interview. I don't know if you'll find that as useful a thought as I did - for me, it took away the anxiety about not being the perfect candidate, and made me think about what it is that makes me adaptable and able to connect with the work being done by the supervisors. I was nervous before my interviews too, but I think if you can find a way to relax so that your adaptability and your ability to connect with the interviewers comes through then it will all be much easier.
I also found out all I could about the research interests of the interviewers - went away and read 3 or 4 of their most recent papers to get a feel for their approach - and that was really helpful. Both of the interviews I had (2 different universities, and I was offered both PhDs) focused on the work I'd done for my dissertation for my Masters, how that could relate to the advertised project (at one of the universities) and where I thought this could be further developed (at the other university), and more general discussion about approaches to research and the general issue that my subject area looks at.
Hope that helps!
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I'm not sure on the number of applicants but the PhD I interviewed for had six interviewees in total, although that was in environmental/ecological science. I was told I got it as I showed great enthusiasm and had the right experience (I have worked in the field for over a year). I was nervous too though, and had a few mind blanks, but as long as they can see you're interested and keen you should have a fighting chance!
Don't worry about your degree classification! You obviously look great on paper or you wouldn't have got an interview. Try to be confident and enthusiastic and really get to know what the phd is about. You might be asked why you want to do a phd and why that particular phd. Also, you might be asked what you want to do once You've completed your phd and some questions relating to the phd. I was really nervous for mine, but prepared for it quite well and so I started to relax about half way through the interview.
You'll be fine! Good luck!
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