Last week I wrote about how important it is for students to be the ones to make the call when an interview needs to be scheduled. Today, I wanted to follow up on that idea with some tips on how to have a successful interview. In my career, I have interviewed hundreds of students – sometimes because I wanted to know more about them and sometimes because they wanted to come in and talk about their application and tell their story. I loved it when students sought me out first; when they wanted to make that concerted effort to demonstrate their interest and their potential.
From these experiences, here are seven tips to help you make the most of campus interviews:
1. Arrive at campus at least 10-15 minutes early and make sure you have contact information for your interviewer with you. This way, if you get lost, get stuck in traffic or cannot find parking right away, and are going to be late, you want to make sure they know WHY you are late. Don’t want to worry about this at all? Get to campus 30 minutes early and then you have some time to walk around on your own and collect your thoughts prior to the interview.
2. Have a game plan for what you want to accomplish. Yes, the interviewer is going to want to know certain things about you, but you also need to take an active role in the interview – what do you want the interviewer to know about you, your accomplishments, interests, and goals? Use your answers to provide specific examples the help demonstrate your brand.
3. Bring a list of questions with you in a small notebook so that you are prepared for when the interviewer asks if you have any questions for them. The interviewer will be impressed that you were prepared and it will show them that you are taking your college application process seriously. Just don’t ask basic questions that can be found on the school’s website. Focus on what’s important to you in your college search.
4. Try as hard as you can to be yourself. You don’t need to interview in a suit but do dress appropriately for the interview so that you are comfortable. The last thing you want to experience is a distraction from your ill-advised choice of clothing. Outside of your appearance, you also want to provide the school with a look at the authentic you and you’re not going to accomplish that if you are pretending to be someone you are not.
5. Speak clearly and listen attentively – you’ve earned this opportunity, now go in and own it. Talk to the interviewer, not the floor, walls or ceiling. Likewise, listen closely to the questions you are being asked and, if you need to, take a moment to think about how you want to respond. You want to make sure you are answering the questions but also sticking to your game plan of what you want them to know about you.
6. Don’t be afraid to follow up an answer to a question with a question of your own. For example, if you are asked about continuing a sport or activity, once you’ve answered, ask the interviewer about what they did in high school and if they were able to continue it in college. Did they find this difficult and what were the specific challenges?
7. Always thank the interviewer for his or her time. Get their business card or (contact information if it is a student interviewer) and send them a thank you card within 24 hours of your visit. Keep it simple and to the point but take the opportunity to restate your desire to attend or to reiterate a connection or pleasant moment that happened during the interview. Admissions counselors LOVE thank you notes!
If you have any questions about how to make the most of college interviews, please use the comment section below.
You can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org for help on preparing for interviews and to complete a mock interview before you go in for the real thing.
Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.