Monday, November 5, 2012

Applying to a highly selective school with an upcoming interview?

This morning Mr. Hank Young, a local Dartmouth alumni interviewer, met with students applying to highly selective schools who are preparing for upcoming interviews.

Mr. Young began by talking about the four "broad categories" that he covers in his interviews with applicants.  

Intellectual curiosity and engagement.  The goal here is to talk about interests beyond classroom content.  Mr. Young shared the story of a recent interview with a girl who is interested in Chinese trade.  It was clear this student had a larger worldview and had burgeoning interests beyond her AP-heavy course work.

Community involvement.  Mr. Young stressed here that sometimes this category involves volunteer work in the community, like volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club.  But again, this also could involve a passion for something like hiking or astrology, and how the student tried to get his or her community involved, like taking a group on a wilderness trip, or starting an astrology club on campus.

Personal.  This is an opportunity for students to expand on something on the resume or to fill in something that a student can't narrate on an application.  This may be narrating something as simple as one's peculiar obsession with Dr. Who (We have a Sci-Fi/Nerd Club on campus that meets to discuss this television show).  Or it may be elaborating on a difficult circumstance in the 10th grade year that caused one's academic performance to dip.   

College.  Here Mr. Young talked about asking informed questions about the university.  If, for example, a student is applying to Northwestern and is interested in studying political science, that student might want to do some research about that department, looking for their course offerings, internships opportunities, and research possibilities, and then asking questions pertaining to that research.  Click here to see where a student might go on NW's web site to ferret this information out.   
Other interviewing tips (aka common sense):
  • sit up straight (Mr. Young told story of one interviewer who was so slouched down in his chair he almost fell out of it)
  • make good eye contact (another story about student who looked everywhere but at Mr. Young)
  • control cadence (nervousness often equates to fast talking)

One student asked if they should bring a resume.

Mr. Young advised the student to email the resume to the interview if possible, but also bring extra copies for the interview.

Another student asked what was appropriate dress.  Mr. Young advised to dress sharp but comfortable.  A suit and tie wasn't necessary.

The last two pieces of advice Mr. Young gave our kids was to 1)  try to make the interview a conversation (not a Q & A), and 2)  to tell compelling stories.

As I listening to Mr. Young, I couldn't help but recall a funny scene in the movie Office Space where "the Bobs"  are interviewing Initech employees, all anxious that they will be downsized.

This scene certainly captures what NOT to do in an interview.