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My PhD Interview Experience

By Frederick Kandala, PhD Researcher, University of Bradford

How long did it take between the application and the interview? 

My application process was 5 to 6 months long. I sent my first application form via the portal on the 6th of February 2020 before the Lockdown. By the 24th of February 2020, they sent me a provisional ID and login information, then I waited until  July 2020 when they told me to track my application via the portal. 2 weeks later they told me that my proposal caught the attention of supervisors who wanted to schedule an interview with me before the start of the new academic year 2020/2021 (September 2020 interview period).

What hoops did you need to jump through before the interview? 

At the University of Bradford, there are a  few rounds from the application process, which was an application form via the portal with more detailed information to be filled for each section. All the information I gave on my initial application regarding education, skills, work experience, qualifications, and research interests, why do I want to research in that fields? What method will I use? What is the goal I want to achieve? Why did I choose the university of Bradford for my research study? And to share my past experiences of doing research. Every question will take 500 to 700 words.  I spent 3 days completing the first part of the application.

Be aware of providing the same information for the second part of your application to avoid any contradiction. Then comes additional information: attaching your CV, personal statement or motivation letter, proposal, qualifications certificate, work experience letter, ID proof, and academic & professional references. It took me one month to prepare my application, update my CV, write my research proposal, and personal statement, and contact my previous university and department to request academic references. The scholarship application was attached to the main application.

The research proposal was 1500 words with references (15 to 30), plus the Gantt plan and detailed budget estimation for your project research for four years.

What was the interview like. Who was on the panel? 

The panel was composed of my two supervisors but I did not know them. It was the first time meeting them to be interviewed about my project.

My application took more than 5 months before the interview, and I became a bit demotivated and lost interest to be honest until suddenly I was invited to attend an interview 2 weeks later.

What I did was I reviewed my proposal and read more about the literature review to understand the existing gaps and recommendations. Also, the methodology for the research, personal development plan (PDP), and (SWOT analysis six steps) to help me understand my strengths, personality, career goals, hobbies, study interests, and weaknesses, identifying needs for improvement or development.

I didn’t know much about the panel approach to the interview. I read some tips for the interview on the website of the University of Manchester on how to answer questions from an academic scholar. Their website has more resources such as word banks for students at all levels of education.

What questions were you asked?

I was asked questions about my PhD journey, what I was expecting from doing this research, what contribution did my achievements bring to Bradford University, and if there is any funding opportunity available for me.

How did you feel it went?

I felt relieved at the end of the interview because it was obvious that I had to fully understand the question before responding and providing any practical example. They were looking at me attentively and I made sure not to lose my voice and eye contact (although) I was constantly asking myself if I was giving a convincing answer. However, I gave a smile after each pause. The atmosphere in general was friendly and professional.

Thank you for your time and I hope my story experiences can help you prepare for PhD applications and interviews.