Many seniors who applied to universities in the U.S. have in recent months had to deal with a daunting task: the interview. I was one of them. Interviews are a part of some university applications and are usually done with an alumni who graduated from the school you are applying to. This year I had four alumni interviews for American universities and here are my tips for the underclassmen that may have to go through this in the future. Enjoy!
- Dress for success. If you’re meeting somewhere public like a café or starbucks dress professional but still comfortable. It is okay to wear jeans and sneakers but try to make your shirt more formal. It’s all about the right balance. If you’re meeting your interviewer at their office, I would recommend dressing a bit more professional. Don’t wear a full on suit but a dress shirt and pants (non jeans) would be a good idea. Most important, be you but be your best self. Wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident but that still looks well put together.
- Do a little bit of research on your interviewer. Now I’m not saying you should try to find out the name of their dog or their favorite ice cream flavor. But spending a couple of minutes googling your interviewer will help you discover what field they work in and what some of their past jobs have been. Plus if you find a picture of your interviewer it might help you find them in the crowded starbucks you agreed to meet them in.
- Show up early. Now when I say early, I really mean early. I would show up at least 15 minutes early. The last thing you want is to get lost or have transport problems and show up sweaty, late, and nervous to your interview the interview. If you arrive at your interview location early and your interviewer is not there yet, don’t hesitate to sit down somewhere visible and order a beverage.
- First impressions are important. Always shake your interviewers hand when you meet. Be sure to make eye contact and let them know you are thankful for the opportunity to interview with them. When the interviewer asks you to tell something about yourself, be confident and tell them some of the basic info. For example, what school you’re from, what type of classes you’re taking, what your intended major is, etc.
- Remain calm. When you’re in the interview try to remain calm. Even if you’re super nervous on the inside no one knows what’s going on inside your brain, unless you give him or her visual clues. If you don’t fidget and keep your words and hands from shaking your interviewer will have no idea how nervous you are.
- Know why you want to go to the school. The most common interview question is “Why _____(name of university you’re applying to)?” Do some research on the school and really ask yourself what is unique and what drew you to apply to the school. Don’t be generic and just say because the academics are rigorous or it’s a well-ranked university. The interviewers love their alma matter and they want to know why you love it too.
- Who talks more? Don’t be scared if the interviewer is talking more than you. Interviewers love sharing information about their university with you and it’s okay if they go on about all the amazing aspects of their university. Furthermore, if the interviewer is giving long replies to your responses it probably means he or she is really intrigued by what you had to say and wants to take the time to respond on that particular point.
- Don’t worry about time. Most interviews run between 30 minutes to an hour. Just because your interview isn’t long doesn’t mean it isn’t good. Some interviewers book interviews back to back so don’t get nervous if they’re checking the time or rounding off your interview at a set time.
- Have a conversation. This is probably my biggest tip. Of course you can prepare some things you would like to say but have an actual conversation with your interviewer. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading from a script. If the conversation flows a way you weren’t expecting just go with it. It’s way more awkward if you try to steer it back to something you prepared. For one of my interviews, my interviewer and I ended up spending 45 minutes discussing activism in high school and world issues. It was fun to have an actual conversation and it showcased what I was passionate about instead of me just giving answers to questions like “what’s your favorite book?”.
- Come prepared with questions. Near the end of the interview the interviewer will likely ask something along the lines of “do you have any questions for me?” This is your time to shine. Prepare at least 2-3 questions beforehand that you want to ask the interviewer but don’t be shy to refer back to something the interviewer said before. This is your chance to get information about the university from someone who actually went there. Take it.
- Be thankful. At the end of the interview be sure to thank your interviewer for their time. Also send a thank-you note or email. Be sure to be personal in your note. If you connected with your interviewer over a common interest or if they pointed out something about the school you didn’t know before mention it. Finally, again express your interest in the school and thank them for your time.
Just remember that your interviewer is here to help you and answer any of your burning questions. Take this as a chance to get to know your potential university better. Relax, be yourself, and kill that interview.
Lois van der Minnen ’16