[caption id="attachment_3899" align="alignleft" width="235" caption="Click to expand"][/caption] Academia is by nature pioneering and therefore individualistic, in both the good and the bad sense. Generally, research groups tend to be influenced by their Principal Investigators (PIs). But as the academic world inevitably courses towards a more business-like demeanour, the more streamlined its various processes become. What that means is that more and more labs begin to look, do, talk and feel fairly similar. The best way to see that is with PhD/Postdoc interviews. Although each interview is unique to the PI and questions can often range from the intimidating ("So - what'd you want?") to the arcane ("Tell me how you think"), as you interview across various labs for your next research job, you will hear a few questions repeated time and again (unless of course you're so stellar you only have to interview once).
Below are the 4 most common interview questions, and what they mean in an academic context.
1. Where do you see yourself in X years?
This one is a staple. Straight out of the Interviewer's Script, it is meant to gauge the candidate's level of ambition, career vision and general raison d'être in one fell swoop. In an academic interview it is generally advisable to indicate that you have long-term plans for your research, i.e. you're not just doing a PhD to go straight into scientific publishing or another non-research career, or that you will do this postdoc while you wait for "something better". And, of course, it is really advisable that what you say matches reality – for everyone involved.