Tips for Future PhD students part 3: Tips for during the application process.

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The Author of this post:

Suzanne van Wouw

Suzanne van Wouw

A finishing PhD students in Medical Biochemistry. She loved doing a PhD and likes to spread this positivity with helpfull Blogs full of tips.
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Applying for a PhD can be a difficult process. Of course, you want to be chosen for a position but an interview is also important for you! You need to decide if this specific PhD position is going to work for you, and there are many things you need to consider. We asked our experienced PhD colleagues and fans what they would have liked to know before starting the PhD and what tips they had for future PhDers like you. Listen to our podcast episode about it! Or for a summary of the points check out our list below. 

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Tips for the application process

Make sure you get the most out of the application process! You also need to decide if it is the place for you!
  • The application process is very different in different countries. In the Netherlands, it is similar to a job interview. Make sure you know what the process entails in the country you are applying!


  • Make a professional-looking CV but don’t forget to add some personality to make you stand out from the other applicants


  • Add email addresses or phone numbers from your internship supervisors. Your potential new supervisor will almost always want to talk to them.


  • Read some papers from the group before going to the interview, preferably the relevant ones for the project you are applying for.


  • You are also interviewing your potential future supervisor, do not be afraid to ask questions back! This is your chance to figure out what kind of person they are.


  • Ask the Pi/Supervisor to describe their own management style


  • Practice for your interview. For example, practice standard interview questions with your friends.


  • Ask about the possibility to go to congresses/ working parts of your PhD abroad if you are interested in that. Supervisors will like it if you have thought about these things and you need to know what the possibilities are.


  • When presenting your past work during the application process, know your audience! They probably already know a lot so don’t oversimplify things.


  • Talk to the other PhD students/ technicians/Postdocs and show interest in their projects. Try to find out how your potential project would relate to them and if you would work closely with any of them. This is not always mentioned clearly during the application and you don’t want surprises.


  • Talk to current/ past PhD students of any place you are applying in a more private setting, if there are multiple rounds of applying I would do this in the second round. (Find them on LinkedIn) Ask them about the supervisor/PI and their management style. Ask them about the lab environment, is it competitive or are people really willing to help?


  • If other people are involved in the project meet them and make sure you would get along.


  • Find out what the project plan is. Is there a plan? If it’s more improvisation will you be able to handle this unknown? Or do you prefer a well-defined project with maybe less possibility to add your own input. Both have pros and con’s think about what you need!

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