PhD Questions of the Month–April 2021

Welcome to another installment of our blog series, PhD Questions of the Month, where the Grad Student/Postdoc Team at Career Services answers the top 2-3 questions that we have been asked in our individual PhD career advising appointments. This month, we’ve gotten questions about virtual interviews and next steps after the interview. Feel free to connect with us if you have career questions in need of answers – you can make an appointment to meet with a Career Advisor on Handshake!


Question 1: How do I prepare for virtual interviews?

Given the current pandemic, many employers are utilizing video interviews for the interviewing process.  Students will often ask how to give a good impression over a video interview when they are physically not in-person at the company/organization.  Here are 12 tips on preparing for and creating a good impression on video interviews:

(1) Select a quiet place that does not have background noise.

(2) Wear professional attire as if this were an on-site/in-person interview.

(3) If you have friends, family members, or pets that are in the same residence, be sure to not have them appear during the interview.

(4) Remember to silence your cell phone so that they do not hear it vibrate or ring.

(5) Choose a professional background. This can be a plain wall background, but you may consider having a bookcase in the background for example.  You want to avoid having anything in the background that could be distracting or embarrassing to you during the interview.

(6) Check that the lighting is sufficient and good. You don’t want to be interviewing in the dark nor have it too bright.

(7) Maintain good eye contact with the camera. You want to avoid looking down or sidewards from the camera.  It’s important to have good posture sitting in your chair and be engaged in the conversation.  You may find it helpful to have a reminder note on the top of your screen reminding you to look at the camera.  You can elevate your laptop or screen which would also help you keep your camera at or above your eye level.

(8) Students often ask if they can have notes in front of them. The concern is that you don’t want to look down or make noise with the paper.  You could put a few notes on the perimeter of your screen; however, you still want to maintain good eye contact and not read off them or look to the side of the camera.

(9) If the interview requires you to do a slide presentation, you may be asked to share your screen. Remember to have your desktop icons and background cleaned up, close any tabs open on your browser, and turn off any email or notification pop-ups that may come in.

(10) Another helpful resource is Big Interview. It’s an online training system where you can practice your interviewing techniques and skills:

(11) We recommend practicing what you look like in front of the camera/video with friends.

(12) You can also schedule a mock interview with us in Career Services to practice your interviewing skills:



Question 2: After the interview is over, what are the next steps?   

Showing professionalism is an important component of making a good impression with the organization that has just interviewed you.  As such, it is important to thank the people who have interviewed you.  You should send thank you emails to everyone who interviewed you within 24 hours.  The email would include thanking them for their time, mentioning a detail that was learned or discussed in the interview, and if you are still interested in the position, continue to express your enthusiasm and interest in the role as well as the company/organization.  Being timely with your emails is key since they may promptly start the final discussions on who they would like to extend an offer to after your interview is over.  You may be wondering if it’s ok to follow-up if you do not hear a decision by when they said they would let you know.  This is not unusual as there are many things that need to happen internally on their end before an offer can be given to their top candidate.  It is reasonable to follow-up (always give a few extra days) after you were supposed to hear by as you wouldn’t want to come across as too zealous or aggressive in contacting them.  If you are unsure or have any questions about when it is best to follow-up, feel free to ask one of us in Career Services.  Appointments can be scheduled through Handshake.  We are here to help you navigate the many different aspects of the job search and application process!





By Marianne Lipa
Marianne Lipa Associate Director, Graduate Students & Postdocs