Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Interview Part I: PhD studentship interview


Before my old blog decided to kill itself (actually I killed it), I have thought about sharing my interview experiences with you people. So far I had gone through four different interviews, different in purpose, and different in approach. So in this Part 1 (let's see if I'm rajin enough to continue to Part 2 3 4), I'm going to share my latest interview experience for a postgraduate program.

I was interviewed by two universities in two different ways. I had phone interview with Nottingham, and Skype interview with Manchester. The questions asked were almost the same (which I'll share in just a moment), but the feelings were different.

Personally, I prefer Skype interview, over a phone interview or a face-to-face interview. First, because I didn't feel as nervous, compared to the face-to-face interview. Maybe I got my brain to think that these people were far from me, so if I did any mistakes, or said something wrong, they couldn't whack me or anything (not that face-to-face interviewer would do that to me). The atmosphere was less intense. They couldn't really 'bantai' you with all sort of questions because the distance and medium set certain limitations to the questions asked. I don't know how to explain this. Please just tell me you geddit! Haha. My Skype interview was very casual, not only the conversation was casual, but I dressed super casually too! I just put on my black 'tudung Indon' and a......pyjama! See, the comfort of doing Skype interview in your own room :) Since I was less nervous, I became so chatty and I smiled the whole time and I made people laughed. Good time ey?

So the questions..(not in chronological order)

1. Why PhD?
I told them about the USM fellowship thing and how I have always wanted to have a PhD at some point in my life. In my essay for university application, I told them how I wanted to be a medical doctor but too bad I was scared of blood. But I may not be a doctor who cure people, but another kind of 'Dr' who finds cure for people. Cheesy, no? Haha

Tips: They want to see your enthusiasm. PhD is a pretty scary thing, so they must make sure you have the will power and can endure all the scary things.

2. Why this university?
Time to gorengggggg. Haha no lah. Cliche answers would be university ranking and top notch research facilities. I also added 'large Muslim community' in my bullet point because it was a concern in the US. In the US, Muslim community is not concentrated at one place, and it's hard to find halal eateries. It's definitely a concern for many different reasons.

Tips: Try to impress them with your knowledge about the university and area. If it has the largest Cancer Research Center in the world, for example, make it a point in your answers. I didn't really do this when I had my interview, but I guess doing little homework will do you good.

3. Why UK, not US?
Jeng jeng jeng. I secretly answered 'US PhD program takes the whole 5 years out my life, when am I gonna get married?' Hahaha. Of course I didn't answer that, and of course marriage is not a concern, what are you thinking? :P I just answered, "Been there for three years and I got tired of the US" and they laughed to it. I know people have been comparing UK and US PhD education a lot and US trumps in that case, but I just want to explore UK and Europe and experience the different cultures and lifestyles and whatnot. *so many AND ah?*

4.  Why Immunology? What amazes you?
Frankly speaking, I don't know how to answer this. It's more of how I feel towards it than a factual reasoning.    I answered (it may sound lame), "I am amazed at how small things like a cytokine can do so much in our body yada yada yada" Seriously I don't know how to describe this interest of mine.

Tips: Know your thanggg! Lucky me it was on Immunology, something I'm very fond of. If USM sent me to do some protein engineering project, seriously I'm gonna BS all the way. So you gotta have passion in what you are doing, then only you can ease your way in answering these interviewers. DWYL LWYD, remember?

5.  Explain your undergraduate research project.
Haha this is the most interesting part of all. I have a standard concluding statement whenever someone asks me this question. So I worked on the role of Notch signaling pathway in cell transformation bla bla bla. They asked, "So what's the outcome of the research? Did you publish any papers?" My answer was, "Oh the research was halted half way, because my mentor died of lung cancer" It's not a joke okay. I know we have this insider joke that goes, "Oh tak habis belajar, sebab cikgu mati". But seriously, I was telling the truth. My research mentor died in January 2010 and the research was just handed over back to our collaborator in Maine Medical Research Center.

Tips: The most sought after PhD candidates are the one with heavy research skills under their belts (I'm talking about science candidates here, not sure about others). I'm definitely not one of those people, as I had only a year of experience compared to my other friends, plus my research was not completed. I admitted that to the interviewers, and they said it's fine as research skills are easy to be developed (they say, okay, not me).

Ermmm what else eh? Oh aaa..

6.  From your opinion, what are the characteristics should a good PhD candidate have? (It's another way of asking, what makes you a good candidate for us?)
Gorrenngg time again. Well not really goreng lah. Excellent time management, committed to work, able to work under pressure yada yada yada.

Tips: This is the time to SELL yourself, whether it's asked in one way or the other. Show them that you are worthy candidate, and that you are willing to learn and work hard in order to patch up your weaknesses (as for me, lack of research skills or rather rusty research skills)

I guess that should suffice for now. Too long already, you might yawn reading it. InsyALLAH I'll come up with Part II; my job interview.

I'll leave you guys with this very useful website, one that I used extensively to prepare for my PhD interview:


anisizatyA.J said... Best Blogger Tips [Reply to comment] Best Blogger Templates

1.Why talk about USM? Are you working with USM now? Or USM buat twinning thingy ke?

2.Terus PhD eh? Takde like Masters ke apa?

Teehee just interested to know. And what made you decide to continue your studies?

Plus sambunglaaa part 2 3 4. Nak tauuu. :)

Adilah Rosli said... Best Blogger Tips [Reply to comment] Best Blogger Templates


1. Oh. USM and KPT are my sponsors. The catch is, I have to work for them for 7 years :(

2. Yeap, trus PhD. It depends on your CGPA you graduated with. They also practice this in Malaysia and the States. But even if your CGPA allows you to do PhD right away, you can still opt to do Masters first for whatever reasons.

3. Soalan ni macam soalan dari interviewer okaayy. Haha. I've always wanted to do PhD. Envy you ppl who take medicine, I'm too penakut to do medicine, so PhD is the way lah :)

Plus, personally I think you can't do much with a Science degree, unless you want to settle for some business related job, or lab technician or something like that. But my Boss said, even in business, to be sitting on a CEO of biotech company chair, you either have to have MBA, or PhD.

InsyALLAH ada Part 2 3 4. Tengah nak perah otak ingat balik :)))