All Careers | Interviewing Skills


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Congratulations! Your application made it through the initial screening process and you have been invited to interview for a position. The interview allows the employer to determine if you are a good fit for their company and if you have the motivation and drive to be productive and successful. It also allows you to ask questions about your potential employer and get a feel for the workplace culture to see if it is a place you could envision working for years to come.

To prepare for the upcoming interview, visit the organization’s website. What is the employer’s mission? What is the employer’s major contribution to their industry or field? Learning this information makes you more knowledgeable and confident before the interview. Furthermore, it allows the interviewers to see that you genuinely care about this job. For more on preparing for your interview, see our detailed PDF.

Interview Questions

The majority of the interview will be spent answering questions posed to you by your interviewers. This may seem intimidating at first, but there are ways you can prepare for and anticipate questions.

Common Interview Questions

For common questions to think through as you are preparing for an interview click here:
Tell me about yourself...
What interests you about this position? Why do you want to work for us?
Why are you thinking about leaving your last job? Why did you leave your last job?
What is your greatest strength?
What is your greatest weakness?
Why should we hire you?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What salary range are you looking for? Do you have any salary requirements?

Behavioral Questions

When interviewers ask you behavioral questions, they are trying to see if you have the key qualities they require for the position. These kinds of questions ask you to consider how you behaved, performed, or reacted in previous situations to help serve as an indication of your future behavior in a similar scenario.

Click here for some sample behavioral questions:
Describe a time when...
Give me an example of how...
Tell me about a situation when...

Industry Specific Questions

Consider the employer and what kind of questions they might ask you during your interview. Think about how you might respond to those questions. If you are applying for a research position, expect to be asked technical, research-oriented questions in addition to commonly asked questions. The employer will often be more interested in the techniques and skills you acquired doing your graduate and postdoctoral work rather than the specifics of your research.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

At the end of every interview, an employer will ask if you have any questions for them. The right answer is yes, or you risk appearing uninterested and underprepared for the interview. Prepare some questions in advance after doing research on the employer and position, but make sure to only ask questions that were not already discussed in the interview.

For sample questions for your interviewer(s) click here
How do you measure success for your employees?
What is the work/life balance like for your employees?

Answering Questions

  • Be concise and to the point with your answers
  • Avoid too much scientific jargon and the specifics of your research
  • Link your experiences and interests to the position to which you are applying
  • Speak to your most recent and relevant work experience
  • Stress your interest in a long-term career at the company
  • When asked about your preferred salary, research the market rate for positions in that industry and provide a reasonable salary range, based on the nature of the position and your prior experience
  • Ditch verbal crutches (‘umm’, ‘like’, etc.). Instead, take time to think about your answers
  • Don’t focus on weaknesses that are a key qualification for the position

For more strategies on how to answer interview questions, check out the detailed PDF!

Interview Stream

Take every opportunity to practice interview questions or to participate in mock interviews.

All JHU PhD students and postdocs have access to Interview Stream. The site allows trainees to videotape a mock online interview that they can review along with PDCO career coaches. Multiple tips and resources targeted at enhancing interview skills are accessible on the website.

Additional Resources

ImaginePhD (Sign up for free to access tip sheets on interviewing and much more)
‘4 Types Of Interview Questions PhDs Will Need To Answer’