Getting into a top graduate school takes lots of preparation, research and a bit of luck. When you land an interview with a recruiter from a desirable graduate program, stress might kick in. Researching important facts about the graduate program, preparing interview answers, getting a haircut from your favorite stylist and using your Kohl’s coupons to buy the right interview outfit are all activities you might prioritize. Here are some tips to help you win over the interviewer.
1) Pay attention to your appearance. Professional clothing and impeccable grooming are essential. Although academic performance holds a higher priority than looks while in school, getting into a reputable program requires looking the part. Show up for the interview dressed for the career you hope to have upon graduation. If you’re applying to an MBA program, dress in professional attire just as you would for a management interview.
2) Prepare for the interview by practicing. Consider the types of questions the interviewer might ask and rehearse the answers ahead of time. For example, you might be asked to explain your reasons for choosing the particular graduate program, your vision for your professional future, and the issues or activities that are most important to you. It helps to brainstorm and write down potential questions. Ask a friend or relative to interview you. The readier you are, the more confident and relaxed you will be during the interview.
3) Review your application materials before the interview. Pull out your completed application, resume, transcripts, personal statement and everything else that you submitted to the admissions committee. Look over these items so that the details are fresh in your mind, allowing for quick and well-thought out responses.
4) Be ready to dispel obvious doubts and concerns. For example, if your disdain for statistics showed up in your undergrad grades, be ready to convince the interviewer that you have a plan for mastering statistics in grad school. Maybe you worked full-time during college and did not have enough time to study. You might explain that you plan to work with a statistics tutor during the summer or have another plan that immediately removes doubts about your future academic performance.
5) Show that you are confident and mature. How you conduct yourself when under pressure makes a big difference during a graduate school interview. Although interviewers expect nervousness during an interview, they do take note of how you handle stress. Show your maturity by avoiding words such as “like” and “you know” in between phrases and slang like “dude” and “chick.” If you have a habit of joking excessively or rambling when nervous, practice for the interview by considering the types of dynamics that rattle you. Establish a calm reaction instead, like a brief pause, a deep breath, asking for clarification or another useful technique for managing nerves.
6) Ask thoughtful questions about the graduate program and university. Review the university catalog, course requirements, accomplishments of alumni and the graduate program reputation so that you can ask insightful questions. Show the interviewer that you’ve done your homework by sticking to questions that are not already answered on the university website or in program materials.
About the Author: Marianne Moser enjoys counseling students on their career path and goals. She has her Masters degree in Organizational Leadership.