In my role as professor I wear many hats: teacher, researcher, mentor, coach. Sometimes, I confess, things can get kind of silly in Dr. David’s Neighborhood particularly around the Ides of March.
March Madness of campus life is in full bloom. Midterms; academic advising; students learning the outcomes of interviews. I asked two of my senior undergraduate research assistants to share their thoughts about interviews they recently had. Both of these talented students were accepted into graduate school for next year. I asked them to share with me how they had prepared for their interviews, what they experienced, and advice they would give to others. Here are their reflections on the interview process they experienced. Clearly I’ll need to change my ways before I job hunt–and perhaps don a different hat!
Preparing for an interview:
- Dress to impress: It goes without saying that when you look your best, you feel your best. With that being said however, always wear something that you feel comfortable and confident in. If you are not comfortable with the clothing you are wearing, you will be constantly adjusting your clothing or distracted from the itchy sensation of your top. Always dress your best, but wear clothing that lets your personality shine and that does not distract you from your interview.
- Keep going: As human beings we often make mistakes, it is part of our human nature. When interviewing, do not become distraught or overly concerned about stumbling over words, about saying the “right” word, or about forgetting to explain a detail about your qualifications. The beauty of life is that it keeps moving. Learn from your mistakes, but realize that graduate schools know that we are all human, and they watch how we pick ourselves up and continue on.
- Prepare a question: To show engagement, graduate schools are looking for students who ask questions. Questions can be as simple as how many students are admitted into the program or as complex as asking about the curriculum of the school. In all situations, always have a question prepared to show interest and preparedness for the graduate program.
- Engage students and faculty: Some graduate schools hold group interview days for all possible candidates to attend. While students want to make a good impression on the faculty, the graduate school is also looking at how well you interact and connect with other students. Because most graduate programs accept a small group of students, it is important that those students work well together and encourage one another during their studies. So, while it is important to engage faculty, make sure you are also interacting with other candidates.
As a senior in college planning to go on to graduate school, I have been preparing for interviews for many months now. Unfortunately, I have found that the best way to prepare for an interview is to experience an interview. Luckily, at Carroll University we have Career Services, so I was able to do a mock interview before my actual interview. Some students even do two or three mock interviews. This helped me more than words can express. The woman who worked with me made sure my responses sounded polished yet genuine, and she taught me interview techniques that I would not have known otherwise such as tying my answers back to the school. Despite having this practice, I was still nervous. But remember that nerves are good! They show you that you truly care, and they give you a little extra push to do better. Beyond this, I also made sure to do my research. Make sure you know the program and the school you are interviewing with. Lastly, have questions! I cannot stress that enough. I was told to make sure I had questions to ask, and I wrote all of my questions down beforehand and brought them with me in a pad folio. Interviewers notice this.
All of this preparation was beneficial to me, yes. Many of the basic questions “why this school?” “tell me about you” were asked. However, make sure to do more research on your program and common questions for your program. This is something I wish I had practiced more. Another thing I wish that I had remembered was that they brought me there for a reason. Clearly they liked something about my application. So, when you are at an interview, remember to be yourself and prove to them you belong there. Throughout my group interview, I forgot to remind myself of this, and I started to compare myself to the other individuals interviewing with me. As hard as it is, DO NOT DO THAT. You will only psych yourself out and only hurt yourself. Also, dress well. If you do not own a suit and tie, buy one. If you do not own dress pants and a blazer, buy one. That is money well spent. Lastly, breathe. Again, they brought you there for a reason, so just breathe and do your best.
I am starting to hear bagpipes in my dreams. I shall miss these two students as they move on. Thank you A. and A. for putting up with my clowning around with you in Dr. David’s Neighborhood! You have taught me far more than you can imagine and I look forward to following your career trajectory.