It’s nail-biting stuff. You may have prepared religiously for this day; envisaging every possible question and formulating carefully thought out responses. But the bit when they ask ‘” Do you have any questions?' is not the time to sit back and ride on the back of your – so far – successful interview. Asking well-thought out questions will provide you with a real opportunity to leave a (good) lasting impression.
Asking the right questions can mean the difference between you leaving the interview as a lively, intelligent, research-savvy student or one who would be happily spoon fed any existing information.
Here are our top five suggestions of questions you can ask at postgraduate interviews.
Compare the course you are applying for with other competitor institutions and talk about what appeals to you about this one. Make it stand out from the others – pinpoint something it offers that others don’t, for example, a specific module and then enquire more about it.
If you’re beyond masters level, you should check out the research interests of academic staff you will be working with – then come armed with some relevant questions. Don’t be afraid to ask what lured the interviewee into the post they are in in the first place. Make a point to ask the interviewer what he or she believes is the program's greatest asset.
Read around your subject area and get to know the latest developments.
For example, if you’re applying for a scientific course, look out for any new research and ideas or methodologies. If it's literature, discuss emerging writers in genres that interest you. If it's languages, talk about any interesting linguistic developments.
Ask if there’s an opportunity to explore and discuss your interests during the course and how you might use them to investigate new ground. It will show an appetite for beyond what you are being taught.
You’ll no doubt be asked what you want to get out of the course and whether it’s a prelude to further study or a career.
So ask what support is available in the industry for your field. It’s also worth enquiring whether the course provides links to industry and whether other students have been sponsored through them. You could also find out what other sources of financial support could be available through industry. Also, what have other students gone on to do?
Delve in beyond what’s on the website about how modules are taught. Ask about guest speakers, about opportunities for industry experience, about specialisms and any innovative teaching styles or approaches.
When it comes to post-masters level, what are the supervisory/tutorial arrangements; what are the common hurdles people find most difficult and how do they typically overcome these? Ask about the research culture in the department; the ambiance; about specific collections or equipment.
Look into the background of staff you’ll be working with. This includes any published work they have produced including research papers, books and articles in journals. Try to ask questions of interest around their work and ask about something that especially grabs you. You could even ask specific questions around what tutors are working on at the time.
It’s also worth asking if there are any opportunities to invigilate, take seminars or teach, especially if you are looking at a career in academia. Do faculty members regularly publish with PhD students? – this could provide an opportunity to research with a professional scholar.
Finally, if possible, it’s worth scheduling the interview with your first choice institution, last. That way you will gain experience and hopefully confidence with each interview you do, allowing you to prepare what questions to ask in each one.
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