I've applied for an R & D position for a big company. I believe I've background of what the job requires, but usually when I apply for such kind of positions I try to get as much information as possible about the interviewer/interviewers.

In this particular case I've found that the interviewer has a PhD, very strictly related to what the job ask in terms of background, so I started to think that probably some of the possible questions I could be asked in this first telephone interview could be somehow extrapolated from such PhD thesis.

For my experience usually the technical telephone interview is mostly focused on finding out if the candidate could fit the job, so I don't think I actually need to read the whole thesis, but just some bit to prepare myself better.

So here are my questions :

  1. Is such approach useful in general? Or is the mine only paranoia?
  2. As I said I have understanding of the requirements of the job, although I haven't been through them for a while, because of that I'm reviewing the involved stuff, how much do you think I should go in detail for a telephonic interview?
  3. I do really like to be hired, mostly for the experience I could get from such job, moreover the company is involved in a field of industry I would like to get specialized, do you think that approaching in this way I would be able to effectively show how much motivated I am?

I'm asking such questions because I'm the candidate, and to be honest I don't know from the other side what the interviewer is looking for.

The position is actually for a senior, so I don't expect they hire me because my experience in the field isn't that vast but I've always worked in similar stuff since I got my graduation, but I hope they would hire me. Because of such consideration my main goal would be to impress them in order to make them consider consider me for a job involving the same topics but that would not require maybe the experience of a senior.

Any further suggestions?

Further comment:

I'm not sure if it was clear or not. I'm not trying to flatter this guy, it's not my intention and it's not the way I'm used to prepare myself for the interviews. I don't think it would also make sense. What I was trying to say is that I want to be prepared for what I could be asked. I don't think this guy would ask me anything about his PhD thesis. But to me it make sense to be prepared for question like "what idea do you have of what we do here?" or maybe "If we have such problem, how would you tackle it"?. The correct term of what I'm looking for has been used in one of the answers you have given to me, which is "to show I'm confident".

And, as I said, this is the way I usually adopt when I apply for a job because I want to show how much I do care about the job I'm applying for.

Again my question is whether or not this kind of effort is useful or not, if not what should I focus on (for the telephone interview step), if yes what can I do to improve?

  • 1
    A general thought, if the person interviewing you has done his/her thesis a number of years ago, it would probably make more sense to focus on papers published more recently; they're more likely to be relevant to what's being done at the R&D center today. – Dan Neely Oct 19 '16 at 11:14

Any information you can find out is worth having and analysing. It can make the difference between getting a job and missing out. Information is a useful tool, but don't expect it to get the job for you. It will just help.


I would count this as not only "doing the homework", but the "extra also". This can give you an edge in the performance, but as Kilisi wrote, this is just a slight extra, do not expect it to carry a big worth.

In case of R&Ds, if looking for a senior member, I would expect them to hire someone with a minimum reliable experience in the field. You may prove to be considered as that, but obviously your CV would not show as the promising number one, so you will need to prepare well for this interview. As for details, go for the coherence, relations, mechanics of the topic. If I were an interviewer, I would keep some "tricky" questions to see how the candidate perform with a question where there is no enough information for a clear call decision/analysis, specifics that can highlight shallow mindwork, and things like these.

In rare situations, knowing details of his thesis might be decided as an attempt to appeal on his ego, and can also think it is an unprofessional way to gain some advantage, so be careful with it. Keep it on the track of professionalism. Expressions, like "I have found your thesis close to the matter (we currently speak about)" - but only use such if you mean it, and true to the core. If the chance does not come up to mention, that you know his thesis, then that's it. No point to force it or feel stressed.

Motivation is important, but the first key expectation (as for senior position) of the company will be that you own such experience, that they can count on you performing reliable, consistent results. If you feel you can present those skills, it is a clear go mark. If you are not confident (and believe me, it will be a key point) to present such skills, either you go honest with that and accept the outcome, or you maybe get the position, but it has high chance then to go awkward and many bad outcomes can be the result.


One thing to keep in mind is that most PhD holders (and active researchers) love to talk about their research.

If you ask questions about their thesis (or current publications), make sure you do so only after you are confident the interviewer has gained a good understanding of you. The last thing you want is to get the interviewer talking about their research for a lot of the interview time.

This doesn't mean all PhD holders will do this, but definitely a large number of them will. You want to avoid the potential for causing this to happen during your phone interview.

What you could do is at the end ask a question like:

  • "I was looking at your dissertation and was curious how X applies at your current job. It's very related to my interests and it looks like your thesis covered this."

You could probably just read the abstract of the dissertation for this purpose.

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