After showing the interviewer that you are polite, organized, punctual, and maturely dressed, you are well on your way to acing the alumni interview. Here are some tips for how to capitalize on your initial good impression.
What You Should Do
1. Make eye contact
We said this in our first post in the series, but it can be that important. Eye contact helps make a connection between you and your interviewer–it helps you click. It also indicates that you are attentive and interested.
2. Show Interest in the University
Remember that your interviewer loves their alma mater. If you do not seem interested, or show that you are applying on a whim, why should they donate their time to help out? Be respectful and demonstrate that you have at least researched the university. Asking us questions that are easily answered on the university’s website suggests that you are lazy, apathetic, or both.
Know Your Stuff
When you give a reason for why you like the university, be prepare to back it up! For instance, if you state that you like a department’s research facility, be prepared to give examples of why you like it. When you cannot provide details or if it sounds like you quoted a college guide (i.e. “I am interested in “Your University” because it is the top school for “Subject.,”) the interviewer is going to think that you didn’t care enough to do the research.
Prepare Yourself for “Why do you want to go here?”
You will be asked this question in some form or another. Are you able to name at least 3 specific things about the university that make it unique? The interviewer knows their alma mater is special and why, but they want to make sure you know why it’s special. The most important think they are looking for is fit: Can they see you a the alma mater? Will you be an active member of the community? Are you the alma mater type? If you can demonstrate that you know what the school’s type is, that you are of that type, and why, you are set!
Come with Questions
Again, this shows interest and a desire to get to know the university. Be prepare to ask questions that aren’t easily found on the university’s website and prove that you are truly interested in what the university has to offer.
Show Your Passion
What excites you? What mobilizes you to be active and/or work hard? Does that fit with the university’s character and resources? Passionate people make the best contributions, and universities are always on the lookout for them.
Ask Questions About the Interviewer… If Time Allows
Get to know your interviewer if you are able to. They are not only exemplars of what happens to graduates of the school, but exemplars of what the typical student at that university is going to be like. Your interviewer will not be the only example, but they will be able to give you some idea of what some of your classmates might be like.
As hard as it is to blow an alumni interview, it is possible. Here are the things that you definitely should avoid at your alumni interview.
What You Shouldn’t Do
1. Wear/Display Paraphernalia from Another University
This should be a no brain-er. The interviewer doesn’t care if your sibling/parent/SO went to another university, we want to know that you are focused on the alma mater. Displaying paraphernalia from another school suggests that your attention is divided. Even if this is not the case, doing this will give the wrong impression.
2. “My Parent Made Me”
Do not tell the interveiwer that you’re applying to this school or any school, for that matter, because you’re parents made you. This will lead to a rejection letter. (Then again, maybe that’s what you’re aiming for in this case.)
3. Ask Ridiculous Questions
“There is no such thing as a stupid question.” Unless you ask a question of the wrong person. If your interviewer graduated 20 years ago, asking about the dining hall food? Not the best demonstration of your intelligence. Same goes for asking about a specific club that clearly could not have been around 20 years ago… i.e. Call of Duty Gaming Society. Your interviewer is generally up to date on basic university statistics and can tell you a great deal about the character of the university. Tailor your questions to things that they’ll likely know. If you want an answer to a question that the interviewer might not know, phrase it as “Do you know who at [Your University] can tell me about _____?”
4. Be Braggadocios
Don’t confuse showing how interesting you are with bragging. Interviewers want to know what is interesting about you, not how good you are. Let your accomplishments speak for you, not vice versa. For example, telling your interviewer that you can run a mile in 4:31 is not nearly as impressive as talking about your passion for running! Dropping a quick sentence about how your dedication paid off in a 4:31 mile time is okay, but leading with that is not. Remember that your accomplishments are in your application and it is your character that defined in the interview.
Be very careful not to start ranting about things without linking it to your goals, passions, or activities. For instance, if you’re passionate about fighting hunger, talk about the canned food drives you’ve organized, the awareness you’ve raised, et cetera. Going on and on about how our country/the world does not care about hunger and how apathetic everyone seems to be. Those remarks can be taken as rude and can completely turn your interview around… in a negative way.