5 Strategies to Help PhDs Prepare For Their First Industry Interview

If you’ve finished your thesis and are looking for a job in industry, what do you do next? For many PhD students, the transition from academia into the workforce can be a scary one. There is often a significant difference in culture and interview techniques between PhD recruitment and interviews in industry. If you’re trying to move your career forward with a new job and can’t wait on another academic position coming up, it could feel like you have no other option than to look for opportunities outside of the ivory tower. If you’re beginning to consider breaking out of your academic shell, interview prep is an important part of your preparation. The pressure of an interview can leave even the most qualified candidates feeling anxious. However, being well prepared will put you at ease and give you confidence in your answers. These tips will help prepare you for your first industry interview so that it doesn’t knock you off balance again.


Prepare for Culture Shocks

There’s a lot of advice floating around about how to prepare for an interview, but much of it will be specific to the academic hiring process. It’s important to be aware of the difference between these interview styles so that you can be prepared for any culture shocks. Industry interviews are often condensed into one or two days in a very short timeframe, with many candidates being expected to fly to the location for the interview. This is a stark difference from the cushy academic lifestyle where you can usually take your time to find a job and schedule interviews over a couple of months. Academics often have a long list of questions to ask potential employers, but in industry interviews are much more focused on the candidate’s ability to solve problems.


Research the Company and Role

It’s important to research the company before an interview, but it’s even more vital to do this if you’ve been away from academia for a while. You’ll likely be interviewing with hiring managers and senior leaders, so it’s important that you have a good understanding of the company and its goals. You’ll also have to know a little bit about the industry to show you’re prepared for the role. Preparing for an interview is more than just knowing what to say; you also have to be ready to engage with your interviewers. If you’ve applied for a role and the company has asked you to prepare a presentation on your research, then it’s a great idea to create a presentation and share it with the people you’re interviewing with. This shows you’re serious about the role and shows that you’re not just reading off a script but have a genuine interest in the company.


Network and Practice Interview Techniques

It’s important to network with people in your industry in the years leading up to your first interview, but it becomes even more important when you’ve finished your PhD and are looking for work outside the academic sphere. Networking with people outside of academia is a great way to get insider tips on the industry, as well as being able to get introduced to future employers and being able to practice interview techniques. You can also learn what companies are currently hiring, which will help you set up interviews with the companies that you want to work for. You should also practice your interview techniques. There are lots of online videos and mock interview websites that you can practice on. You can also practice with a friend to ensure that your body language and tone of voice are relaxed and engaging. If you’re able to, try and arrange an interview with a company that you would like to work for. This will help you to feel more prepared for your first interview, as well as potentially helping you get hired.


Don’t be Afraid to Ask Questions

Asking questions during an interview is a great way to show off your interest in the company, as well as showing that you’re engaged and ready for the role. Interviewers will often ask you if you have any questions at the end of the interview, so you don’t have to worry about seeming too eager if you don’t ask anything. However, it’s important to have a few questions prepared so that you have an opportunity to show off your interests and learn more about the potential job. Questions like “What is the average workload like for someone in this role?” or “What are the biggest challenges in this role?” are great questions that show you’re interested in the job and ready to tackle the challenges head on.


Confidence building exercises

If you’re having trouble feeling confident in your abilities and don’t want to rely on mock interviews, there are a few exercises that you can try. For example, you can try writing out your answers to the most common interview questions. This is a great way to figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are, as well as giving you time to word your answers properly. Similarly, you can try recording yourself answering challenging questions, and then listening to the recording and correcting your mistakes. Remember, there is no such thing as a silly question, and no matter what industry you’re interviewing for, there will be questions that will stump you. By practicing and engaging with your own abilities and knowledge, you can be sure that you won’t make any silly mistakes.



Interviewing for a job outside of academia can be a very different experience, so it’s important that you are prepared for the differences between industries. By researching the companies you’re interviewing with, preparing for the interview questions, and practicing interview techniques, you can be sure that you’re ready for any situation that comes your way.

looking for a New PhD Career ?

Join free-ist which is an exclusive network of the world’s top Academia and Corporate Researchers in Science and Technology. We provide access to companies that match you in quality with your skills, as well as compensate more for them.

Share This Post

More To Explore

Signup Now & Accelerate Your Career