Acing Your Interviews
The interview is, for many applicants, one of the most stressful steps in the application process. In virtually every other part of the application, you have time to think, consider, re-write, etc., whereas the interview is unpredictable and requires answers to be given immediately.
However, being a good interviewee is a skill just like any other – one that you can improve with practice and preparation. Let’s get into some of the key things you can do to ensure that you ace your interview.
1. Look at commonly asked interview questions and consider how you would answer them. A quick internet search will give you a wealth of information on what kind of questions interviewers like to ask. Run through these questions lists and consider what you would say for each one. We recommend making notes (bullet points are good), but not writing full scripts for each answer, as you want your answers to be polished but not to sounds rehearsed or robotic. In any case, you should know roughly what you plan to say for a wide variety of common questions so you’re not caught off-guard.
2. Carefully research each school you’re interviewing for, making notes as you go. Every school is unique, and more often than not an answer that is perfect for one school may not be for another. Go through the school’s website and make notes of aspects of the school that appeal to you and which make the school a good fit for you. We recommend checking out (at the very least) the school’s philosophy or mission statement, the academic program, student life, and extracurriculars. If one or more of the schools you’re applying to offer live informational sessions as well, make sure to participate in those so you can ask questions and get a better feel for what’s important to that particular school. This will also help you to think of ideas for the dreaded end-of-interview question: “Do you have anything you’d like to ask me about our school?”
3. Make sure that you make your answers about you. The best interview answers will contain one or more of the following: a) Something about your best qualities, greatest skills, or most meaningful experiences; b) Something about an aspect of the school itself that makes it a good fit for you and why (the student life, a specific course or extracurricular, or even the location); and/or c) Something about your goals or aspirations for the future. Make sure to think about these beforehand. That way, even if you get an surprising question that you’ve never prepared for, you’ll have laid the groundwork for a good answer that involves one or more of the three things above.
4. Do practice interviews! This is an incredibly important step. Just like with any skill, you only become a better interviewee by doing practice interviews. Ideally you would do these with a professional (like one of The Edge’s Admissions Consultants), who can pinpoint exactly what your weaknesses are and which answers need to be improved. However, if that’s not a possibility, you could (and should!) still do practice interviews with, for example, one of your parents, or even taking turns with a friend.
5. Don’t forget to present yourself well. The clothes you wear to the interview matter, as does the background behind you (if you’re doing an online video interview, as many will be this year). Your body language is also important: Sit up straight, smile, don’t fidget. Try to make sure that you come off as friendly, enthusiastic, and well-prepared – all the qualities an interviewer is likely to want to see in an applicant. Remember that the big question an interviewer is trying to answer to their satisfaction is simply this: “Is this the kind of student that we want at our school?”
Keep all these tips in mind, do the work to prepare ahead of time, and you’ll ace your interview! Good luck!
About The Edge
The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained early acceptance to schools such as Columbia, MIT, UChicago, and more! Check out the rest of our 2019-2020 Admissions Results!