All About Interviewing

It’s hard to believe that summer is over, and I’m done with my job as a senior interviewer. It went by too quickly, but fortunately the admission office liked us so much, they asked us to come back and do more interviews in the fall. While I don’t have a hard time filling my schedule during the school year, I’m really excited to keep talking with applicants and helping to shape the class of 2016.

If you missed a summer interview or are just now starting to look at W&M, I’d highly recommend making an appointment in the fall, because the interview is a great way not only for us to get to know you better, but also for you to get to know us better. The purpose of the interview is to add a much more personal dimension to your application, but because they are run by students like me, you will have the chance to talk with a real live student who is more than eager to answer any questions you may have after about 20 minutes asking you some questions about yourself as an applicant first. They are much more informal than most people imagine, and are a great chance for you to make yourself stand out in our applicant pool. With that in mind, after reflecting on my summer interviews, I’ve come up with a few pointers to keep in mind should you decide to interview;

1. Every question is an open-ended question. One-sentence answers do not help you, and the interview should be more of a conversation than an interrogation, but that’s up to you. If you don’t explain yourself, I can promise you the interview will turn into an interrogation, which is painful for me as an interviewer, and perhaps even more so for you as an interviewee.

2. Be original! W&M sees thousands of applicants, and I see hundreds of interviewees, so understand that this is a rare opportunity for you to distinguish yourself. Make me laugh, make me cry, get me excited, just do whatever you can to separate yourself from the pack and make me fight for you as a candidate. That is, after all, my job; I want to like you, and I want you to do well, but you’ve got to give me something to work with so I can advocate for you as a candidate.

3. Don’t be afraid to talk about yourself. If you’re anything like me, you may not like talking about yourself. Well get over it (I know I’ve had to), because an interview is one of the few chances in life where it’s completely appropriate to talk about how awesome you are, and it is to your benefit to take advantage of that opportunity. I want to know how awesome you are, you just need to have the guts to tell me.

4. Don’t be nervous. I’m really not an intimidating person, and there’s no reason to get worked up over a simple 20-minute conversation. So take a deep breath and relax; this isn’t going to be life changing, and you WILL make it through this, I promise.

5. Know yourself. This is hard to prepare for, but I can usually tell when a candidate has a strong sense of self, or self-confidence. Be confident in your answers, and you’ll do well. Even if you have doubts, you know what they say in showbiz, “you fake it until you make it”. That works, too.

6. Not answering is not an option. It really is an option, but it doesn’t reflect positively on you if you say “I really don’t know” in response to one of my questions. I’m not going to ask you for the meaning of life, or the square root of 253, or anything too complex that you can’t answer if you give it a little bit of thought. Any answer is better than no answer.

If you keep those things in mind, you are sure to succeed in any interview. People always ask me what I look for in a W&M applicant, and there is no one good answer. But what impresses me the most is when I see a candidate who is passionate about something, and can clearly articulate that passion in a way that gets me excited about what they’re talking about. This could be an activity or an organization or an area of study or whatever. I like to think that I’m good at selling candidates to the Admission Committee, and I promise you that if you show me true passion, I will do everything I can to get you a spot in the class of 2016.

So, you may wonder, how should you prepare for an interview? Well, I hate to break it to you, but since there are 12 of us interviewers, we all do interviews differently and ask different questions, so there is nothing standard you can prepare for. What I would recommend is just spending some time with a parent or friend beforehand talking about your high school experience thus far, and what you want to do in college. Make sure you can articulate yourself and what you’re interested in academically, but also (and perhaps more importantly) what you do outside the classroom, and what makes you unique. All we really ask is that you be yourself, because we want to get a better sense of you not just as a candidate but as a person and potential member of the W&M community.

Again, I know I’m biased, but I highly recommend doing an interview. It’s a very positive experience, and we really do love talking to you. Who knows, if you sign up, you may find yourself in an interview room with me this fall, but if not, I promise all the other interviewers are awesome. Just keep in mind my pointers, be yourself, and you’ll do great!