The measure of an interview

My boss has asked each summer intern to reflect on our past summer of interviews, suggest advice to future interviewees and contextualize, if possible, what separates the goods the greats and the got to haves. Interviewing 6 people a day roughly 3 times a week for 8 weeks, gives me a total of 144 interviews. That’s 144 twenty-five minute one-on-one sit down sessions with prospective students.

The problem with my boss’s request is that its difficult to articulate what it is that makes an interviewee standout. Why is it that I leave some interviews in awe of the person I just spoke to, sure that they will one day have a huge impact on the world, and I leave others content but uninspired. I think the answer can be found in one word: passion. It took me a long time to come to grips with what my role was as a summer interviewer. After all, besides the occasional quirky question, most of what I’m told throughout the day could just as easily be learned form reading an interviewee’s application. Thus what my job really entails, is gauging the energy, personality, passion, and overall vibe of the person sitting across from me. You could ramble off a laundry list of extra curriculars, but it’s the students who take the time to eloquently articulate why it is they have given their time and energy to that club or organization – beyond “It looks good for college.” – that make me really excited. Tell me what you love and why you love it.

Another word of advice: when I give you an opportunity to describe yourself either by asking, “how would your teacher describe you” or “how would your friends describe you,” these questions are gifts. Take advantage of them. I hate to put it in such blunt terms but please, sell yourself. This is your moment to tell me why we can’t live without you. One-word answers, though not preferable, can suffice if this word is strong, significant, and thought provoking. This is NOT a time to be modest, be confident, but not cocky, empowered, but not gaudy. Be a person that will stand up for what they believe, ignite change and add to our diverse college community both in and out of the classroom. You don’t have to have created a new club at your school to impress me, just show me that you have thrived in the organizations you are part of.

The next best piece of advice I can give you is to be honest. Not just with what you are saying but with who you are. If you tell me that you’re hilarious, then I better have laughed at least once during the interview. If you tell me that you’re energetic, don’t put me to sleep with lackluster answers and anecdotes. Embody who you are don’t just tell me who you are. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not just to appease us. There is no perfect applicant, and if you are trying to fit some mystical mold, it shows. Be the most authentic and unique person you know – yourself!

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