“Tell me something interesting you’ve read recently” – the question (well technically statement) that can make or break your interview. This part of the interview offers a unique chance to take charge and move onto a topic you want to talk about. This double-edged sword can be a great opportunity to flaunt your extra-reading, or, show a distinct lack of interest in the subject you are applying for. Here are a few dos and don’ts that will help you prepare.
Firstly, though this may seem obvious, pick something you’ve actually found interesting. No matter how good an actor you are, the interviewers will be able to distinguish between genuine passion and interest, from someone trying to fake it. Find an interesting article/paper/recent discovery/topic to talk about in the weeks before the interview. This shouldn’t be too hard and there are plenty of places to look.
When searching for an ‘interesting topic’ there are some place I would recommend starting before you plunge head first into literature searches, review articles and research papers. Start with BBC News’ Science section. This will give you recent developments in brief detail with quick summaries. This can give you a good starting block for further reading. Another good starting point are pop-science magazines like New Scientist. These give you nice overviews of current ‘hot topics’ and more detailed summaries of modern developments.
The next step is to read into the topic further. This doesn’t have to be extensive, but you want to be able to give a brief explanation of what you’ve read and, most importantly, why you have found it interesting. I would also recommend reading around topics related to your chosen topic and the ethical and legal complications it may have. This reading should be more general and does not have to be in too much depth. The aim of this is to prepare for the interviewers using your topic to explore your wider knowledge of the field, or using it to pose an ethical/legal question. An example of this would be moving from a cancer discover you wanted to discuss, unto the various treatment options for cancer, or an ethical question such as “should new expensive cancer drugs be funded on the NHS when they can only be used to treat a small group of patients?”.
There are also some easy pitfalls that are worth avoiding. Don’t tailor your topic to the interviewer’s area of interest (if you are able to discover this prior to the interview). Though you may think this is a great chance to show a shared interested and score some brownie points, they are likely to see through it and use it as an opportunity to grill you on the topic. If you genuinely are interested in their area of research, then go for it – just be prepared. Also, don’t pick something from the syllabus unless you have read into it outside of an A-level textbook. Picking these topics makes it look like you aren’t interested enough in a topic to keep up-to-date with current developments and shows a lack of originality.
This truly is an example of ‘fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’, but used right, it can make you stand out from the crowd! Happy reading and best of luck everyone!