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Cambridge NERC Doctoral Landscape Awards (Training Partnerships)

Graduate Research Opportunities

Whilst some people take interviews calmly in their stride, for others, having an idea in advance of the structure of an interview and the types of questions can be extremely beneficial when it comes to preparation and performance. If you have been invited to interview for a C-CLEAR NERC DTP studentship, you might have lots of questions about what the interview will be like. Perhaps you are wondering: Who will be interviewing me? What will the format be? What are they going to ask? What should I prepare? Can I ask I any questions? What happens next?

Here we aim to provide information to help you prepare for your interview, including examples of the types of questions you may expect to encounter from the panel you are interviewed by. We recommend that you read this in consultation with our published DTP Application Assessment Criteria.

Q. Who will be interviewing me?

C-CLEAR DTP interviews are organised by theme panel (Biology and Conservation, Climate Change and Environmental Processes and Solid Earth and Geological Hazards) and you will be interviewed by the theme panel associated with the project you have applied for. If you have applied to more than one project and they fall under different themes, you will normally only be interviewed by the panel for your first-choice project, but the panels will consult with one another.

The interview panels are made up of small panels of Cambridge academics from across our partner departments (C-CLEAR Staff and Partners) and between them they will have expertise in a breadth of disciplines. They may not be experts in the exact area of the project to which you are applying, however, Departmental representatives and prospective supervisors are closely consulted by the panels throughout the process.

If your prospective lead supervisor is on the panel, they will recuse from the interview.

Q. What is the interview format?

All interviews will be held via Zoom. Each interview will last approximately 25-35 minutes. You will receive all of the details about the scheduling of your interview, as well as the link to join, in your invitation confirmation email.

Q. What are they going to ask?

No two interviews are identical as each applicant and project is individual. Our panels will ask some questions to every candidate, to provide a means of comparison and establish key information about a candidate’s motivations, transferable skills and potential as a PhD student. However, they will also ask discipline or project-specific questions to explore a candidate’s depth of understanding of the project’s field, and suitability, or ‘fit’, of each candidate to their project.

A typical interview might proceed as follows (although note these may not be the exact questions asked):

1. The Panel Chair will lead introductions and establish the purpose of the interview.

2. Questions

Example Q1: What attracted you to this project? What particular aspects are you interested in?

Example Q2: What skills have you acquired that would be useful for this PhD?

Example Q3: Expect some in-depth questions in response to your answer – be prepared to discuss your relevant skills and demonstrate your knowledge relevant to the project area.

Example Q4: What do you imagine the outcome of the project will be and what impact will it have on the field?

3. You will be invited to ask any questions you may have. These are not assessed, so don’t be shy to ask anything, or feel under any pressure to impress.

4. The Panel Chair will close the interview.

Q. How should I prepare for the interview?

You may be asked to prepare a short (five minute) presentation, in which case your interview confirmation will provide more details about this.  But other than that, please be yourself and try not to be nervous. You might like to read more widely around your proposed project, so you are prepared to talk about that in the interview. You might think about the sorts of questions that might crop up, and consider what might constitute a good answer, showcasing your strengths to the best of your ability.

Q. What happens next?

You will hear about the outcome of your application for a DTP studentship by email within a week or two of the interview.