interview questions

Lately I’ve been compiling potential interview questions so that I can practice answering them. Plus, I know this will be helpful to others in the same boat. Here’s what I have so far. I’ll work on this list over the next few weeks as I prepare for interviews – adding the A to the Q&A!


  • Tell me about yourself.
  • Tell me about a recent book you’ve read or movie you saw.
  • What hobbies/activities/outside interests do you enjoy?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses as a student?
  • Do you feel your GPA/GRE scores accurately reflect your abilities as a student?

Prior (Research) Experience:

  • Tell me about a research project you completed.
  • What are the next steps for the above project?
  • How have your prior experiences prepared you for our program?
  • Do you have any special skills?
  • How would you contribute to our program, and why should we choose you over another candidate?


  • What motivates you to pursue a PhD in this field?
  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?
  • What skills/abilities do you want to work on during grad school?
  • How does this program fit into your career goals? What will you do with what you learn?
  • Tell me about a goal you’ve achieved or are working on now.

Playing Nice and Problem-Solving:

  • Tell me about how you contributed to a group project.
  • Tell me about a time you took on a leadership position.
  • Tell me about a time when you resolved a conflict with a lab-mate.
  • Tell me how you handle stress.
  • Tell me about a recent problem/mistake/failure and how you handled it.

Theory / Reading / Broad:

  • What’s the best paper you’ve read recently?
  • What’s the most interesting finding you’ve read about recently?
  • What do you think are the major current trends in our field?
  • What idea/theory in our field do you think is interesting, but wrong?

Future Directions:

  • Why did you decide to apply to our program?
  • What other programs are you considering?
  • What will you do if you aren’t accepted here?
  • If you weren’t getting a PhD in this field, what would you do instead?
  • What research do you want to do? What questions do you hope to answer?
  • If time and money were not a concern, what project would you do first?
  • Describe a first year project you’d be interested in doing. (How would you test the above?)
  • What would you expect to find in the above project?
  • What if the findings from your study were the exact opposite of your predictions?
  • What excites you most about our program’s/lab’s research, and why?

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