Preparing for an Interview - Additional Tips for Success
Many students applying for postgraduate admissions will find that having an interview is not a requirement. However, for some degrees such as MBAs or for some scholarship programmes, you will have the option to interview. If you have the opportunity, an interview can be an ideal opportunity to enhance your application by highlighting elements of your academic interests and character that may be easier to convey in person rather than on paper. Read on for more information about logistics, preparing for an interview and additional tips for success.
Whether a compulsory or optional element of the application process, students will likely have the opportunity to have an interview in the UK or over the phone, rather than be asked to attend an on-campus interview. Often universities will be able and willing to arrange for an alumnus/a in your local area to conduct the interview. Alternatively, a faculty member or graduate admissions staff may be planning a trip to the UK for a recruitment event and might be available to interview you during their stay. In the event that a university requires that you attend an on-campus interview, you may then wish to ask whether they are able to provide assistance with your travel expenses.
Preparing for an Interview
We recommend you arrange several mock interviews with friends, family or advisors to practice answering potential questions. By doing so, you will be more likely to have well-organised and thoughtful responses to questions that are likely to be asked. However, it is important not to memorise your answers as you want to come across as genuine, rather than rehearsed.
You should anticipate being asked a variety of general information questions that might include:
- What are your academic interests and plans?
- How did you become interested in your field of study?
- Why do you want to pursue your degree at this particular university/with this department?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What is your greatest accomplishment and/or failure?
- What is the most significant contribution you’ve made in your previous academic and/or work experience(s)?
- What is your strongest/weakest point?
- What do you see yourself doing in the future? In five years? In ten years? And how will this programme help you fulfil those goals?
After asking you a series of questions, you interviewer is likely to ask you whether you have any questions for them. To ensure that you make the most of this offer, we recommend that you prepare a few questions in advance to ask them. The most important rule of thumb when devising questions for your interviewer is to ask questions that cannot be answered by reading the university’s website or prospectus, such as:
- Why would you recommend this university/department?
- What is it like to study in this department?
- What did you like most?
- Do you have any advice for someone like me interested in a career in...?
Additional Tips for Success
- Think like a politician; have talking points for your interview. Review the university’s admissions criteria or the scholarship programme’s selection criteria. For each, make sure you have 1-2 points and examples to draw from. If possible use the questions asked to discuss the points you would like to make. For example, if asked "Tell us about yourself", choose traits or experiences to talk about that are relevant to what the interviewer is looking for.
- Re-visit your research on the university. Having already conducted extensive research when choosing the degree programmes to which you would apply, be prepared to discuss your interests in the university and how you see yourself fitting into your chosen academic department, as well as the wider community, specifically and without hesitation. Be able to explain how you researched universities and selected this one in particular. You may be asked whether you have visited the campus. If this was not a possibility, say so. However, be able to show other ways you researched the programme and are committed to attending if accepted.
- For scholarship programmes, you should research the history and mission of the organisation. Be prepared to show how you are a good fit.
- If you aren’t already, read up on current events or developments in your field or related to the scholarship programme’s mission.
- Be prepared to confidently discuss your career or academic/research plans. Don’t feel shy being specific. It is likely that these will evolve as you study, and that is OK. The aim is to show you have plans and that they are a good fit for the university/programme.
- For research plans, know the relevant literature, key questions you will address, hypothesis you will examine, ideas for methodology and significance for your field (should be a unique contribution – looking at a new research question or an old question from a new angle for example).
- If you have already written your personal statement you may find that you have already addressed many of the topics that will be discussed in your interview. In your interview, you will want to ensure that your responses to questions are consistent with your personal statement. However, try to avoid repeating what you have written in your application when possible, particularly if you are being interviewed by a faculty member or admissions officer that will be reviewing your application.
- If possible, schedule the interview with your first choice university last. You will gain experience and, hopefully, confidence with each interview you do, allowing you to be fully prepared for the most important one.
- Be confident, genuine and enthusiastic, but do not come across as overly confident you will be admitted.
- Make notes about the conversation, both for your own reference and to improve your personal statement or other application materials.
- Send a thank you email or note the day after your interview.