Like a job interview, an interview to be admitted into graduate school is nothing more than a test to see if a candidate personally meets the expectations to secure a coveted spot. Interviews are as much about poise, personality and professionalism as they are about grade-point averages, majors and intellectual competence.
There are sure-fire ways to nail an interview. The number one way to breeze through the face-to-face meeting is to prepare. Know the reasons why a school is the perfect fit, and be sure to research the common questions that are asked by many schools. Also, connect with students who have been accepted into a particular school or field of study. Most importantly, in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Know thyself.” That is, have a brief bio rehearsed to discuss at the interview.
Despite the many resources that exist to help students nail their interviews, there are many unintentional ways to ensure an interview flops from the moment a candidate walks through the door. Avoid these 10 interview flops that will ensure a failing grade at grad school admission:
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- Out-of-control nerves. Never let them see you sweat. While nerves of steel are one of the hallmarks of interview success according to an article by USA Today, nerves that are obvious will make a candidate seem unsure and, unfortunately, under-prepared for the rough road that awaits them in the world of advanced degrees.
- Office casual dress. This is not the time to don a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts or jeans. Put absolute effort into dressing the part. A blue blazer, tie and nice slacks for men. For women, a nice dress, suit, or dress slacks and a nice shirt and shoes with a sensible heel. Leave the open-toed shoes at home.
- Failing to ask questions of the interviewer. Like a job interview, always have questions to ask of the individual representing the school at an interview. The school is looking for a perfect fit, but the candidate also needs to feel that the school is a perfect fit as well. Always enter the interview with a list of questions.
- Avoiding eye contact. Eye contact is a non-verbal sign of confidence. Be confident and always look an interviewer in the eye during the interview process.
- Arriving late. Never, ever make an interviewer wait. Be prompt, and be on time.
- Being negative. Avoid making any negative remarks about another school, another interviewer and, of course, about yourself. Always put a positive spin on answers.
- Not preparing for the interview. An interview is always a face-to-face test. Study, rehearse and prepare. Never hope to ace any exam by flying by the seat of one’s pants.
- Being unsure about fields of study. A prestigious MBA program does not want to admit a candidate who does not wish to pursue a career that utilizes the benefits of the rigors of the program. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania regularly posts success stories about their students. Schools want candidates whose future fits their programs. Schools want to be able to have bragging rights associated with the successes of their graduates, which is why a quick search for alumni of any prestigious university will yield the names of many famous and successful graduates. Wharton boasts graduates like Warren Buffett, Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump and Elon Musk. Harvard’s list of famous students include current president Barack Obama, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and W.E.B. Du Bois.
- A ringing phone. Remember to put a ringer on vibrate or just turn off the phone. Do not allow a ringing phone to disrupt an interview.
- Not saying thank you. The thank you note remains alive and well. Write one after an interview. Whether the note is an email or handwritten on a monogrammed note card, always remember to compose a thoughtful note of thanks.
You Can Connect With The Author Vera Marie Reed on her QS-LEAP profile.