I’ve been asked to interview for a second time for a funded PhD position, and I’d appreciate any advice or general insight into how to prep for a second interview!
The PhD will be focused on health resilience and is out of a university in the Netherlands. For context, I have a Master’s of Public Health, specialising in Global Health and Health Disparities. I published one paper during my Master’s and have a mixture of research to industry experience. I’m also South African but studied in the United States.
The first interview went very well, I gave a short presentation and received a lot of excitement from the three interviewers. We also went 10 minutes over the allotted time. The second interview will also be virtual and a bit longer. The discussion’s general topic concerns how I see my specific contribution to the project aims, their faculty team, and any reflections on my proposal in light of our first interview discussion. Their last guidance is also around how I think the PhD will bring me to the next step in my career and when I will feel that I have accomplished what I hope.
@rouxj First of all, congratulations on being called for a second interview!!
I recently dropped out of a Ph.D. program in Social Sciences and I am currently applying for others, all in the US. So there is a chance of little overlap of our fields. But I did want to leave you hanging for a reply, so here are my two cents.
I believe this part is a bit technical between your skills/knowledge and your research project. The only thing that crosses my mind is for you to read the faculty’s work so you can pinpoint the connection between their skills and yours. But considering you are being called for a second interview, I assume you have already been doing this.
On this part, if I was in your place, I would probably emphasize that the PhD would give you access not only to knowledge and methods but also to the faculty and their network. Through them and through their insights you would be intellectually challenged to constantly learn and grow.
One thing that I read every now and then is that the goal of a researcher should be to shift the conversation. That is a signal that he/she was able to create a significant contribution to the domain. I would answer something like this. “My goal is being able to shift the conversation because that would mean that I create a significant contribution to [your topic of research]”. That way your goal is more altruistic rather than personal/arrogant.
Anyway, I hope I have contributed somehow!! Sorry for writing so little. My mind is focused on other things and there is loud music outside my house . I dropped by just to give you some insights.
Best of success!!
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond and for your encouraging words! Your advice is incredibly helpful in providing a framework for concisely answering each specific question.
I’ve read many of the most prominent papers for each interviewer, which is a large part of why they moved me forward for a second interview. It’s a little tough to draw technical similarities with them because they each come from different technical backgrounds to me and each other. However, this is also a fascinating opportunity to collaborate across fields and is another motivation to work there specifically. I want to make sure I give logical answers to how our various expertise could intersect, but in a way that doesn’t come across as forced!
I wish you the best of luck with your applications in the U.S. I have a strong network there among the PhD community if you ever need someone to connect with. I’m not sure of your exact field but you could try the This Is Public Health group - they connect prospective students with current students, programs, and resources!
I hear you @rouxj about wanting to be sincere rather than forcing a connection. My opinion is that if you really believe there is a connection between your interests and their expertise just talk about them. I am sure you are able to notice the difference when you fake that connection just by using the same terms or when you create a real connection. My understanding is that when that connection is real, you are able to talk about it using your own words. It does not matter the degree of mastery you have of the jargon, you will be able to find your way around.
This is my third round of applications and on the first two rounds I believe that overall I applied for more than 15 programs. All of those connections I tried to convey in were a (LONG) bit of stretch. I kinda knew that at the time but now that I actually found programs aligned with my beliefs and my interests, I can see how great the difference is.
You read their work, you know what they talk about and what they value and you know what you are interested in. So, as a rule of thumb, I would say that if you can talk about your connection with theirs, using your own words, without any preparation, you will be able to do that in your interview.
Of course reading your notes to get the exact expressions and definitions will help!! But trust your guts a bit more.
But take this with a grain of salt because so far I was not accepted into any program actually showing that level of interest. Only God knows how I was accepted the first time I applied but I know that if I don’t get accepted now, there is nothing else I can do because I am showing my best and honest true self, and I make sure to read the faculty’s work and the sources they used in their work.
And your message already helped me get more confident about my application!! Because you read the faculty’s work and, as you said, was a large part of why they moved you on the application process. Considering I did the same on my application, it means I am possibly on the right track.