I have just had a very busy week! I finished the poster I was asked to produce for my specialist research project on Sunday, had my first PhD interview on Monday, completed my final PhD application yesterday and gave in my latest ‘Quantum Field Theory’ module assessment today. My next deadline is for my ‘General Relativity’ module, but thankfully it’s in for Monday so I have a spare hour or two to write a quick blog!
Where to start? Aside from working on my various deadlines this week I also helped out at a UCAS day on Saturday. I talked to a few visitors about my up-coming interview and they mentioned many of the undergraduate Physics courses in the UK now have interviews too. I thought I could devote this blog to giving advice on interviews – however, quite frankly I’m pretty clueless where they are concerned! Over my time at Leicester I have had to attend a fair few interviews and assessment days for a combination of part-time jobs and summer placements. Some have been successful and others not. As to what made the difference – I’m not really sure!
I did receive some feedback from one of the summer placements I did not get and it came down to an explanation I gave of a particular area of research. My nerves got the better of me and I jumbled my sentences. So there’s one piece of advice – don’t be nervous! Easier said than done. Tackling nerves is not my strong point, however I did receive a useful piece of advice when I was training to give ‘Student Life Talks’ at open days. I remember we were told one trick to get a handle on your nerves is to convince yourself the interview (or in that case speech) is something you’re really looking forward to. It sounds strange – but I’ve actually found it works! Ever since I got the invitation to interview I kept telling myself I was looking forward to it, and eventually this became true. Weird!
The other thing that really helps me is to try to build my confidence up before the interview by visualising getting the placement/job. I try to remember all the things that make me a good applicant and the fact I must show potential if I got invited to interview in the first place. There is no point getting intimidated by other applicants, since more often than not you have no idea how many positions are open. I remember the interview for my first summer placement at Dstl involved me waiting in a reception area with at least 6 other applicants – and we all ended up getting the job! The other thing I like to do is make the interview day as pleasurable as possible by going for a nice meal beforehand, or looking round the local shops/ museums. It’s even better if you have someone to accompany you.
The last thing I found that helps is to make sure you have both your outfit and travel planned long before the day arrives. Pick an outfit that is comfortable and one you feel confident in. I tend to leave at least an hour either side of the predicted travel times; it is definitely better being early than late! Both these things will mean you are more focussed and less stressed on the day. One of my worst interviews involved me wearing trousers that were one size too big and trailed along the ground as I walked! I felt so self-conscious I found it very hard listening to the questions being asked!
I’ve also found the following websites give some good advice on interviews:
- Leicester University site – advice on stress management for presentations and interviews.
- topuniversities.com – specifically for university admissions interviews.
- myworldofwork.com – this site concentrates on job applications, however the advice is still applicable.
I know it’s difficult to try to keep all the relevant facts and figures in your head during an interview whilst being friendly and confident. Particular when the interview means the world to you. I guess the only thing you can do is try your best; that way you’ll have no regrets whatever the outcome. The other thing, as I myself am finding, is try to keep yourself busy after the interview and not go over and over it in your head – it will only make you miserable!
I hope this blog has been of some help and good luck with any interviews you may have!