Interview Marathon – or my long way to Bonn

The time before:

After completing my Master’s degree, I was working as a scientific assistant for only sixteen hours a week and was planning to have the most relaxed Christmas time ever. And so far it worked out perfectly well. Today, I woke up late ready for another lazy day. As every morning I turned on my smartphone and checked a few new mails. Most of them advertisement, but wait – what was that? Bo&MeRanG? This phrase rang a bell in my head.

Wasn’t that one of the Ph.D. programs I applied for during the last weeks? So, I opened the mail – and yes, indeed or even better: I was invited for interviews in January! Oh my god, my heart was pumping! After getting a few refusals before, this mail was really great news. But, to be honest, I was also shocked. I knew that this would happen, that I would have to do interviews to get a position – but everything seemed so far away in the future. And suddenly my relaxed Christmas time was over. I started preparing a little talk about my Master thesis. I started acquiring information about the different research fields of the PI’s that I would meet (four were planned to be met by that time). I started to freak out! And while Christmas passed, and new year’s eve passed, and new year’s day passed, … January 9th came closer and closer…

On that day:

I did not sleep as bad as expected so I was in a good shape and more or less ready for the ordeal! It turned out that there was an additional PI who wanted to meet me, so it would be five in total. Five interviews in one day! But I tried to stay calm. I took the car to go to Bonn from Saarland and, typical for me, I arrived an hour in advance – just to make sure 😀 So I spent a bit of time in my car listening to music, forcing myself to eat at least a pretzel, trying to stay calm.

At 12 pm my marathon started! I gave a twenty-minute presentational overview over my Master thesis. It was an interesting experience, presenting a neurobiological topic to an audience with a mainly immunological background. The reactions ranged from complete confusion to real interest and constructive discussion. First step done! Now I could breathe a little bit. But in my imagination the personal interviews would be equally hard – I was prepared for questions like: “Why are you especially interested in our research?”, “Why are you the perfect candidate for this position?”. But it turned out that all my forecasts were completely wrong! There was only one interview that more or less corresponded to this idea – and, unfortunately, this was with the one PI that showed up spontaneously and where I had no chance to prepare for the topic… Overall it was a series of PIs introducing me to their research, showing me the possibilities that their group and the awesome program (in case you are interested, I saw other Blog articles about it :D) would offer me.

COLORBOX #34390448

To sum it up: My feeling changed from “I have to convince them” to “They’re trying to convince me”. Thus, it was not too much work for me, but still a huge bunch of information! I had a little break when I moved from the hospital down to the LIMES where I would have the last two interviews. My head already felt like it was on the verge of exploding! And I have to say: I was also starving! How would I have felt without the pretzel that I forced myself to eat in the morning? But there was no time for another snack as the schedule was super packed. So, I found a free parking spot directly in front of the LIMES (after I paid 6 € for the parking at the UKB, as I was not aware of that I could have gotten a free ticket from the program) and the final meters of my marathon started.

One of the interviews that I had at the LIMES was with Prof. Garbi – for those of you who know him this might be confusing as his group is part of the Institute for Experimental Immunology at the UKB. But he offered me to come down to the LIMES so that I did not have to come back up to the UKB again. And the talk with him was really relaxed as he also brought some food for me (just as if he knew that I was starving!). And when we said goodbye this was when I crossed the finish line. It was done! I survived six interviews in eight hours!

Heading back to my car I first ate all the snacks I brought, taking off the absolutely uncomfortable shoes of my business outfit (that I bought just for this one run!). And then I had to concentrate for another three hours driving home, feeling on the one hand liberated, but on the other hand overwhelmed by so much information. And then my head already started pondering over the next stressful point: Who will be on my priority list that I would send to Lucie, the programs coordinator?

The time after:

I was expecting this to be a long time span where I would have to think about: “Who do I put on my list?”, “Who will put me on their list?”, “Will I get the chance to be part of this program?”, “Was my performance good enough?”… I was expecting to freak out again as most of the PIs told me it would take them around two weeks to decide. But again: I was wrong! Not even one week later Prof. Garbi offered me to join his team. Just another reason to freak out! I really made it, like, REALLY! I was so happy and overwhelmed and…! I had my Ph.D. position! In the only group where I did not get to meet the other members or visit the lab – but spoiler: I am happy with both .

COLORBOX #20313638

To put it in a nutshell: That interview marathon was exhausting and overwhelming and an absolute crazy experience – but it was definitely worth it! And now I could finally continue to relax – at least until my Ph.D. started! But that is another story… 😉

Author: Lara Oberkircher