Interviewing Advice: They Want You to Succeed
Interviews tend to kick-start stress and ignite imposter syndrome in even the most self-confident among us, but remember that you have made it this far in the process for a reason: they want you to succeed. No school interviews unqualified candidates, so if you have an interview, it’s because you deserve to be there.
Beyond that, the committee is hoping that every candidate does well and is a great fit. They are hoping it’s a tough decision. They want you to succeed, and from people suggesting alternate answer topics to the design of the interview schedule itself, they often are actively trying to help you do so. Here are a few tips for making the most of their desire for you to do well.
Ask for Clarification
If you don’t understand a question during an interview, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased. If you can’t remember what the question was by the time you’re finished answering it, ask if you fully answered it. And if you’re just plain not sure if you were on the right track or not, ask if you answered the question.
As long as you’re not asking for clarification after every question or answer, the committee is likely to be sympathetic. After all, someone in every department is known for asking five-part questions or questions that aren’t actually questions at all. If you’re still truly baffled, just do your best, and try to say something that adds to what they know about you.
Follow Their Lead
Often when you don’t quite speak to the issue that the committee intended you to or when someone thinks something in your resume or cover letter speaks to the issue more pertinently, someone in the room will speak up. Follow the lead and expand on the experience that’s been brought up.
Even if you didn’t think of the exact topic yourself, the important thing is that you can speak to it. Don’t use this as an opportunity to short-sell yourself, explaining that you didn’t bring it up because you weren’t integral to the project or because it wasn’t as successful as you had hoped. Explain what your role was or speak to the lesson the unsuccessful project taught you instead.
Take All Your Breaks
Breaks are built into on-campus interviews for a reason. The committee knows you need them, so take every one you are offered. Even if you don’t need to use the restroom or grab a drink of water, take a few minutes to be alone with no pressure to talk to anyone.
If the schedule starts to become compressed because some part took too long, do not suggest skipping your break. If you want to take a shorter break, fine, but don’t skip it altogether. And obviously, if you need an extra break at any point, politely let them know you need to use the restroom.
If you find yourself feeling nervous during an interview, remember that the committee wouldn’t be interviewing you if they didn’t think you had the skills to succeed. As you move through the interview process to the on-campus interview, think about how many other worthy candidates have not made it this far. You are here because they believe in you and are rooting for you.
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