How to Land Your Dream Job After Graduate School?

Step 5: Acing the interview

After submitting your job application, the interview process normally consists of:

  • 30 minutes - 1 hour initial phone interview with the hiring manager.

  • If you are interviewing for a software position, you may receive a 1-hour coding review test.

  • Whole day interview on-site (or virtual) consisting of a 45-minute research presentation by you, 15-minute questioning, and several one-on-one meetings.

Perhaps the most important advice for the interview process is being yourself. If the company culture matches your personality, then the interview should be enjoyable. To maximize success, make sure to:

  • Always write a thank you note after the initial phone interview.

  • For the on-site interview, polish and practice your 1-hour research presentation. This is the only chance that you can showcase your research and typically sets the tone for the rest of the interview. If presenting virtually, make sure that there are no distractions for the hour (e.g. background noise, people coming into/out of the room); there is a good internet connection; and, you are using headphones with a microphone to avoid echos.

  • Consider sending your presentation slides to the hiring manager before your on-site interview to get his/her thoughts on the appropriateness of the slides. Given that you passed the initial interview steps, your hiring manager wants you to be successful during the on-site interview, and he/she has useful insight into the audience and interest that could aid your presentation.

  • You will probably receive an itinerary before your interview date, so research the interviewers beforehand and generate questions for them. The interview is a two-way street - you are seeing whether the company fits your own goals and whether the team culture matches your expectations.

  • Be humble, curious, and honest.

  • Lastly, try not to undersell yourself. PhD's are highly desired by companies because research & development roles are crucial to the company's survival and growth. If an opportunity comes up but does not match what you are interested in, consider turning down the opportunity for a better one.

You should expect interview questions aimed at seeing how you work and whether you might be fit in (or be toxic to) the team. Some common/challenging questions that came up during my interviews were:

  • Describe a time you had a problem with a coworker (or your adviser). How did you go about resolving it?

  • Talk about at time you collaborated in a project. How did you divide responsibilities and facilitate communication between the teams?

  • If you had a million dollars to start a new project, what would you spend it on?

For more tips and tricks on acing the interview, I recommend checking out the blog posts by Pat Walters on it (Part 1 and Part 2).