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Application and Interview Tips

At its core, the application and interview process aims to establish how the candidates fit the essential characteristics of a PhD student with relevance to the project, the School and the OU. The most important personal characteristics and skills we look for are summarised below:

  • Excellent motivation to study for a PhD, in particular for the project applied for
  • Appropriate subject-specific knowledge
  • Project-specific skills
  • Broad subject interest
  • Good written and spoken communication skills
  • Good time-management skills
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to reflect on own performance and to respond positively to feedback from others
  • Demonstrable resilience
  • Commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)
We will provide guidance on interview questions prior to the interview. 
Applying for a PhD can be a daunting experience. You may find the tips below useful for your application and interview.     

Application tips:  

  • Be concise when explaining why you are interested in doing a PhD. Bear in mind that the research environment is very different from the taught graduate and undergraduate courses. 
  • Although you may have done many interesting things, in your CV emphasize the experiences relevant to the PhD studentship and place the others in the background.  
  • You should not feel intimidated because you feel you may lack some of the necessary skills and experience - almost nobody does. Instead, think of examples where you have been able to learn and apply something new. A big part of the PhD is about learning and training, which we provide in various forms. 
  • Provide all the necessary documents as requested. 

Interview tips:  

  • Check well in advance that your camera and microphone are working fine with MS Teams. 
  • Remove any distractions from the room you are in, reduce noise, take any pets out. 
  • Listen carefully to the questions you are asked and if you don’t understand something, don’t be afraid to ask for more explanation. Then answer the question as directly as you can.
  • Give specific examples to back up your answers.  
  • Do your research regarding the chosen studentship. You rightfully expect to spend more than 3 years working on the topic, but knowing as much as possible before you start could be a big advantage. Being a bit over-prepared does not do any harm. 
  • Find out what research the PhD supervisors are involved in from their profiles and list of publications. 
  • Have a look at the OU webpages to get an idea about what research is being conducted in the School of Physical Sciences.  
  • Remember that we are not expecting you to be perfect. We understand that some people will be nervous, but try to enjoy the opportunity to discuss your interest in postgraduate research at the Open University and in a particular project.
  • Do not be late!