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The Nine Biggest Interview Mistakes

Scoring a PhD or postdoc interview is another step towards your dream job. However, some small mistakes can blow that opportunity and make the interviewer to think you’re not interested in the position. In order to guarantee you make a good impression, here are the nine biggest interview mistakes to avoid.

1. Being Too Honest

An interview isn’t a sworn testimony. You don’t have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. By sharing too much information with the interviewer you risk boring them or saying something you shouldn’t. If the interviewer wants more details, they’ll for them.

2. Not Being Prepared

This is the easiest way to tank your interview. It quickly becomes obvious when a candidate is unprepared and gives the impression they don’t care really want the job. For a PhD or postdoc interview, there are many topics that are fair game, including the department or lab, the interviewer’s research, the job requirements and research area, and your research. Be sure to read up on all of these before arriving for the interview. You should also prepare answers to the ten most common interview questions.

3. Checking Your Phone

For some this may seem obvious, but many others still need a reminder. Do not look at your phone during an interview. Checking your phone during a conversation gives the other person the impression that you’re not interested in what they’re saying. Make sure your phone is on silent (not vibrate) and leave it in a bag for the duration of the interview. Your messages can wait.

4. Arriving Late

Being late to the interview is disrespectful and shows you don’t value the interviewer’s time. To avoid this mistake, figure out how you will get to the interview the day before so you know when you need to be ready to leave. Then move that time up 30 minutes to give yourself breathing room in case you hit traffic or there’s a delay on the subway. If, despite all your preparation, you are still going to be late for the interview send the interviewer a quick email, or better yet, call them. They will appreciate you giving them the courtesy of a head’s up.

5. Arriving Too Early

Although you should leave yourself plenty of extra time to get to the interview, you should not show up more than five minutes early. The interview is scheduled at a time when the interviewer is available, and they may not be able to accommodate you earlier. Arriving early puts unnecessary pressure on the interviewer and can start the interview off on the wrong foot. If you find yourself with extra time on your hands, take a walk around campus or stop in a nearby coffee shop.

6. Letting the Nerves Get to You

It’s natural to be nervous before an interview, but don’t let it hurt your performance. There are several little things you can do before an interview to mitigate your stress levels, such as arriving early and practicing with a mock interview. If you get hit with a tough question during the interview, ask for a moment to gather your thoughts rather than stammer through it.            

7. Dressing Down

The academic environment tends to be more casual than the corporate world, however you should still dress up for your interview. It’s a sign of respect and shows you are taking the interview seriously. Plan your outfit in advance and make sure everything is clean and ironed on the day of.

8. Not Asking Questions

There will be a moment at the end of the interview where the interviewer asks you if you have any questions for them. Saying “no” is a huge mistake. Applicants who don’t ask questions appear uninterested in the position. Not sure what to ask? We have some ideas for both PhD and postdoc interviews.

9. Not Asking About the Next Steps

Before you leave you should always ask the interviewer what the next steps are and what their timeline is. This reinforces your interest in the position, but also gives you peace of mind so you don’t spend the next few days constantly refreshing your inbox.

Good luck!

Les mer


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