The world’s elite colleges and universities often require applicants to interview before being admitted. Those that don’t require it sometimes make interviews available to those who would like to have the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities in that way. A few use post admission interviews to encourage prospective students to actually enroll. No matter which interview you may face, you’ll want to be at the top of your game.
Here are some tips to help you.
You are unlikely to be able to fake much in the interview so don’t try. Focus on telling the truth and being who you really are, so you don’t tie yourself in knots.
Tell me about yourself.”
“Tell me about yourself.”You are so likely to face this simple request that you must be thoughtfully prepared to answer it. Think of three things you’d like the interviewer to know about you. Optimally, these would be three characteristics that demonstrate you are prepared to perform well in this program. For each characteristic, you should offer one or, at most, two sentences that support each of those characteristics.
Dress for success
When you go to an interview, you should look your best. This would mean men wear jackets and ties and women look similarly smart. Fashion sense is unlikely to be a factor in your admission, but being clean, tidy and respectful of the institution will be factors.
Have an agenda
As you prepare for the interview, make a list of up to 10 things you’d like the interviewer to know about you. Prepare anecdotes about your experiences that support each of the points you want to make. Be ready to adapt each to a question you’ll hear. So, when the interviewer asks a question you don’t have to churn through old memories looking for something relevant to say, you can just flip quickly through your anecdotes that allow you to make your points and tell your story.
One of the factors that interviewers will often consider heavily in their analysis is the questions that you ask of them. If you ask no questions, they won’t think you’ve studied up on the school and already know everything about it; they’ll think you don’t care. Be prepared with three or four meaningful, specific questions about the program that aren’t answered on the school’s homepage.
You will want to be relaxed and confident in the interview. To do so, you may want to sneak into the restroom before your interview to strike a pose. Seriously, Amy Cuddy a Harvard professor has led research that demonstrates that by standing in a power position such as, placing your feet apart and hands on your hips, your body will react by providing you with more confidence. Watch her Ted talk.
Some interviewers have an odd pattern of nervously talking through most of an interview. They seem more interested in themselves than in you. Listen actively and attentively, responding to what they say. If you do so, you’ll leave a positive impression that others may not. If you interrupt or try to control the conversation, you may offend her and live to regret it.
People like optimistic people so be positive. Don’t complain about the weather, the cab driver, the receptionist, or even about yourself. If some obvious adversity is evident (there is a foot of fresh snow on campus) be positive about its impact on you, “I made it through the blizzard.”
Assume the best
As you visit with the interviewer, you’ll want to assume that you will be admitted and speak in that way. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy the program.” “The campus is beautiful; I will love living here.” “Being a student here will be the pinnacle of life.”
Don’t mess up
You should practice saying two names before you enter the interview: the name of the school and the name of the interviewer. If you have any question about how the interviewer’s name is pronounced, be sure to settle that issue before the interview by asking someone else. Don’t make the mistake of telling the Princeton admissions officer how much you look forward to attending Harvard; she’ll be all too happy to make sure you don’t have a competing offer.
Devin Thorpe, husband, father, author of Your Mark On The World and a popular guest speaker, is a Forbes Contributor. Building on a twenty-five year career in finance and entrepreneurship that included $500 million in completed transactions, he now champions social good full time, seeking to help others succeed in their efforts to make the world a better place.