Have you been invited to interview at the grad school of your choice? Great news! This means the program is seriously interested in you, and you are one important step closer to acceptance. To make the most of this opportunity, though, you need to prepare.
Overall, your goal is to demonstrate your enthusiasm for and knowledge of the program. You want to come to the table (or the Zoom meeting) ready to answer questions they might ask, some of which could repeat questions you have already answered in your application and some of which might be unexpected. Additionally, you should be ready to ask the admissions staff and/or the alumnus/alumna conducting the interview intelligent questions of your own about aspects of the program that you could not find out about on the website or through other research. The last thing you want to do is ask a question whose answer is readily available online.
Before we discuss some ideas for smart questions you can ask at your interview, consider and plan for questions your interviewers might ask you:
- What would you like us to know about you?
- What do you feel you could you contribute to the program?
- Tell me about your greatest successes.
- What would you consider your greatest failures?
- Tell me about a time when you made a mistake. How did you fix it?
- How are you unique?
- What are some of your interests outside of work and school?
- What do you think would be the most challenging part of this program for you? How might you prepare for that?
- Describe your long-term career goals.
Again, you might have already covered some – or even a lot – of this territory in your application, but be prepared to discuss it again with your interviewer(s). This is an opportunity to go a bit deeper in person and include details you might not have had room to write about. It’s also an opportunity to share additional examples and new insights.
Mock interview prep is the best way to ensure that you are as well prepared as possible, both to answer questions and to ask your own questions that show you to best advantage. With this preparation, your stress should be minimal, allowing you to present yourself as relaxed, confident, and appreciative of the opportunity.
Here’s how to begin your prep work for your interview.
1. Review the program’s website thoroughly.
This review will help you discover where you might have gaps in your knowledge of the program, such as career placement assistance or internship opportunities. Asking good questions attests to your serious interest in attending the school. You might also consider asking your interviewers for a profile of their ideal candidate. This can give you an opportunity to show how well you fit with the program’s culture and values.
2. Review the details of your application.
Bring your entire application package with you to the interview, as well as an extra copy of your resume. It’s possible the interviewer might not have it with them or didn’t have time to review it, and they could ask you about a detail from your history that you will have at your fingertips. Before the interview, review your application to refresh your memory about the content and specifics of your essays, short answers, and other data. So, for example, if your interviewer asks, “What are some of your interests outside of school and work?” or “Tell me what you learned from a failure,” you will have instant recall as to which interests you indicated in your application or the details of the failure you wrote about, including what you learned from it.
3. Write a list of questions.
Having reviewed your application, reread your essays, and gone through the program’s website with a fine-tooth comb, write down a list of questions that relate specifically to your personal interests, experience, and goals. Jot down whatever comes to mind. You don’t need to ask your interviewer every question you think of, but why not have a robust list of options available? The best questions will help highlight how well suited you are for the program. In other words, you want to connect the dots between the features of the program and your particular objectives, needs, and interests. Because everyone’s questions are individualized, it’s difficult to offer specific examples, but here are some general ones that might inspire your more personal queries:
- How difficult is it to get a seat in popular classes like “International Business Relations”? (or “Medical Ethics” or “Psych 101,” or any other class that interests you and is popular)
- What steps are involved in starting a new student group on campus?
- What are the criteria for competing in a business plan competition?
- What role does the career services department play in helping students network and secure interviews?
If your admissions interview is with a recent graduate or a student, ask about their personal experience in the program. You could develop a nice rapport while showing interest in the interviewer as an individual, not merely as a representative of the program. As the conversation flows, other questions might naturally arise, such as the following:
- What are/were your favorite classes? Professors?
- Are there any activities, clubs, or competitions that simply should not be missed?
- Do you wish you had done anything differently before attending or while in the program?
A word about attire
Part of making a good impression at your interview is dressing appropriately for it. Business attire is recommended, and avoid any distracting accessories. If you’re doing a Zoom interview, make sure you will be in a quiet place without disruptions, and that your background doesn’t detract from the focus on you as a prospective student.
You can do this! Go ace those interviews now!
The best way to feel confident going into your interview is to be absolutely sure you’ve taken the right steps to prepare. A mock interview and feedback from an Accepted admissions expert can help you put your best foot forward on the day of your interview. Contact us today!
By Judy Gruen, a former Accepted admissions consultant. Judy holds a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University and is the co-author of Accepted’s first full-length book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools. Want an admissions expert help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!