Candidate Resources

Pre-Application Resources for Candidates

The Panorama DTP hosted several webinars to support candidates during recruitment. These included information on Panorama from our Director & Manager/EDI officer, and Q&As with a panel of current Panorama DTP students and questions from previous years’ applicants. See recordings below – you’ll hear from our current PhD candidates about their experiences applying, tips and tricks, and what’s like being on the NERC Panorama DTP.  There is also a list of FAQs to help with applications

Pre-Interview Resources for Candidates

Recordings of previous candidate interview information sessions for those invited to interview in 2023 are available to watch below.  

Please note: these are recordings from sessions held in 2023, so some information will have changed.

  • The dates in the videos are for the interviews held in 2023
  • We are not expecting the interviews in 2024 to be affected by industrial action. 
  • The stipend shown in the presentation is for 2023 – 24.  The stipend for the academic year 2024-25 will be in line with the advertised UKRI rate.

Interview Information Webinar #1

Interview Information Webinar #2

Competency-Based Interviews

During the interviews we are trying to assess the skills and attitudes of the shortlisted candidates. A recognized way to assess these is via competency-based questions, which allow candidates to describe a situation where they have shown the required skill/attitude, what the task was, how they acted in that situation, and what the result of the situation was and how they reflect on it (i.e. STAR technique). This method is based on the idea that previous behaviour is a better indicator for future behaviour than hypothetical situation.

Question Themes & Example Questions

To make the interview process fairer to applicants, and more inclusive than traditional interview formats, the NERC Panorama DTP conducts three short (15 min) interviews on different question themes. Each interview has a different pair of panellists, who will ask you questions focussing on both academic and soft/transferrable skills, grouped into: 

  • Academic Panel: focus on past research projects, the PhD project and the required research skills for the project
  • Skills Panels A & B: questions probing specific, non-project related personal attributes that are beneficial for a successful researcher

Below are exemplary themes and example questions for these themes. These are the sorts of things you may expect in our interviews, but note that we cannot guarantee that you will be asked these exact questions.


Example Questions

Past research experience

1.      Can you describe one of your past research projects that you have worked on as part of your university studies/industry experience

2.      Can you describe a point in this work where you have used your expertise or opinion to direct this project?

3.      If you were starting a previous research project again today, what would you do differently?

Future project

1.      Can you describe the PhD project you have applied for in your own words?

2.      What are the main aims of this project? Where is its wider impact?

3.      Can you describe your approach to combine your results with the current understanding of the topic?

Analytical Skills

1.      Can you describe a situation where you used your analytical skills to solve a particular issue in a past research project?

2.      Tell us about a time when you had to analyse information and make a recommendation about where to go next in your research project?

3.      Can you describe how you keep an eye on the bigger picture while focussing on the detail?

Project Management

1.      Can you describe how you structured a previous project when you first started?

2.      How do you balance your time?  If several challenges came up at the same time (running experiments/fieldwork, writing a paper deadline, teaching commitments) how would you prioritise?

3.      How do you plan to manage this PhD project on a day-to-day level?

Long-term Impact

/Future Goals

1.      What is the overall importance of this project? How do you see this work impacting the field?

2.      Describe how your previous work/this PhD aligns with real-world applications or trends?

3.      What do you see yourself doing in five years’ time, once you’ve finished your PhD? How will this PhD help you achieve your long-term career plans?

General Communication

·       Can you communicate your ideas well?

·       Can you present coherent answers to the questions?

·       Are you able to interact with the panel?


1.      Can you describe a point in a past project where you got stuck? How did you deal with this situation?

2.      Describe a project-related problem you have faced. How did you approach it/what did you learn?

3.      What new skills have you picked up during studies/industry experience? Can you describe how you approach a gap in your skills?




1.      Can you describe a situation where your solution to a problem or a situation was particularly creative? Why did you choose this route?

2.      Tell us about a time when you got a completely unexpected result/a “That’s funny” moment in your research experience? What did you do next?

3.      How would you bridge the gap from your research, to research users/the wider public?


1.      What motivated you to apply to do a PhD?

2.      Can you describe what attracted you to this project?

3.      Was there a point in your past education/job where you thought a PhD would be your next career step?