If you are asked for an interview
If your CV impresses your potential supervisor, you will probably have to attend an interview, this can be quite daunting, make sure you are well dressed. Even though you will probably wear a t-shirt and jeans every day of your PhD make sure you are wearing a suit and tie to your interview.
Ensure you have read a large number of the papers produced by the lab you are applying to as well, and ensure you have read around the subject area, including some of their competitors papers.
All interviews are different. Between myself and my friends who have applied for a PhD the interview has varied from a casual half an hour talk about what happens in the lab, to a 2 hour grissling by the supervisor and other members of the academic staff and funding board. One of my friends was also asked to produce a presentation on why they wished to work in the lab and go to the university.
Make sure you appear interested in your interview, try are remain comfortable and answer questions honestly. If you don’t know an answer, then admit that you don’t know. Try and ask questions yourself about the lab and the research. Remember if you feel uneasy in your interview you will likely make your interviewer also feel uneasy so try and keep yourself relaxed.
If you can ask other PhD students about their supervisor and whether they are good at their job, working for an unfriendly supervisor or one that sets impossible projects will not make the next four years that fun.
Make sure you can answer questions on:
- Why you want to work in their lab.
- Why you want to work at their university.
- What you find interesting about their research.
- Their research (to a limited degree anyway)
- The techniques they mainly use in the lab.
- Your third year project or masters project.
- Your dissertation or relevant modules.
- Anything you may have put on your CV.
- Any papers or other references you have been asked to read.
- Why you want to do a PhD.
If your interview is successful
You will hear back quite quickly if your interview was successful. You may not have long to decide on whether to accept, some PhD offers expire after 7 days.
It may not be the only stage however. In some cases it will be, some universities will obtain funding then find applicants, others will find applicants then the funding, unfortunately there is little you can do (besides average a good 2nd year or final degree grade) to obtain the funding, it is mainly down to how good your supervisor (to be) is at negotiating. Often if you apply to a PhD already on the internet they will have funding, if you ask someone for a PhD then you will probably be “accepted” by them before they have managed to acquire you some funding.
If you can afford it you can do an self-funded PhD, however this would be extremely costly. Some universities may offer a bursary, this is where you fees are paid for but unlike other forms of funding you are not offered a stipend.