Take it away, Joy!
1) have some idea about what the PI does, read papers or even just the synopsis on the dept website, papers are obviously better
2) but if you do forget/don't know a simple "can I see some of your more recent data?" will generally start off a 20 min long explanation from the world expert on that topic and by the time they're done the interview is over. Works like a charm (esp if you're an overly nervous/shy person)
3) if you know enough about their research come prepared with specific questions, they like that and it makes you look smart/thoughtful
4) don't ask dumbass questions. I was interviewing as WSU Pullman with some dude who studied female gamete maturation in some organism (c elegans?) and I asked why not in males, he looked at me like I was stupid and said "because that's not how it works in males, sperm doesn't mature." I felt like an idiot. no bueno!
5) relax! they've invited you to interview because they're interested in you. i found out after the fact that my program at UCSB only interviews people who they've more or less accepted. so long as you're not crazy/douchey/an idiot/or obviously choosing SB for the location/weather you're in. some schools even tell you you're accepted before you go to the interviews (Davis) others wait to tell you you've been accepted until you get to the interview (WSU)
The only other things I can think of apply to any interview situation: dress well (I wore jeans/sweater/nice-ish shoes to all of mine), don't chew gum, etc.
I'm not an expert but I did do it 3 times. I hope this helps!
Some good advice, right folks? #2 is sooo true, too, trust me! The only thing I can think of that I would tack on here as a side note is to be nice to everyone. (Joy does this normally, but I've seen my share of people who aren't as socially adept... :) Anyhow, the office ladies, your potential adviser's kids or spouse--all these people can influence whether you get in, and even if you are rude and get in, it won't be nearly as easily to deal with these people. Also, I've heard stories of people "testing" potential interviewees by making them work with frustrating people, just to see how they act. Kind of puts a different spin on the old saying "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all" right? Anyhow, something to keep in mind!
So, does anyone have anything they would like to relate? Interview horror stories? Comments of any kind are always appreciated :)
A big THANK YOU to Joy for her great post!