Jackson Foshay is our Senior Counselor at Edusmith. He graduated from UCLA and has coached students to top-tier US universities. In this article, he shared his interview lessons from his coaching and interview prep classes with the students.
Know the interview type: Your attitude, preparation, and demeanor should change based on the nature of your interview. Most college interviews are informational: they’re organized to give the student information about the school and to get a feel for the student’s personality in a more informal setting. For this type of interview, you want to remain composed, but don’t be afraid to show aspects of your personality your application might have missed: your sense of humor, interests, and style of communication. Relax, and let these qualities reveal themselves.
Do your research: Make sure you know enough information about the school and the program you’re applying to. You want to be able to converse on the topic and have cogent questions specific to the school. Interviewers appreciate it when you are prepared. It also helps to envision what types of questions you’ll be asked, and think of how you would respond.
However, there’s a balance to strike when showing your level of preparation. If you bring up aspects of the program simply to demonstrate your level of knowledge, rather than engaging in the conversation, you’ll come across as canned and robotic to the interviewer. So be prepared, but keep your responses organic.
Take your time: Speak slowly, and don’t rush to answer a question when you haven’t determined how you’ll respond. When nervous, people tend to talk fast and rush to fill the empty conversational space after a question. This often leads to stammering, imprecise, and disorganized answers. When asked a question, take a few seconds to think over your response. The silence may feel agonizing, but it shows the interviewer that you are thoughtful with your responses, and have the confidence to wait until you’re ready.
Use body language: Spoken conversation is a small portion of how we communicate with each other. Our bodies, movements, and expressions are an essential part of the impression we leave on someone. From the opening handshake to how you sit, your body should convey a message of relaxed confidence and composure. You shouldn’t tense up or fidget when you sit, nor should you slouch over the chair too nonchalantly. If you’re feeling fidgety, use your hands when you speak. It helps direct your nervous physical energy into something expressive. Always be sure to make eye contact, and don’t be afraid to smile and nod in agreement.
Study your interviewer: The technique, used often by salesmen, of mirroring is based on matching your style of communication to the person you’re speaking with. Watch how your interviewer speaks and uses body language: are they relaxed or firm? Do they use professional or casual vocabulary? Mirroring the interviewer will help put them at ease and hold a more favorable impression of you. Remember that interviewers often experience nerves as well: if you can help them relax, they will lend you more empathy.
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