My Unofficial Tips for Interviews

Category Student Voices


Dan Class of Alumni
Authored on December 15, 2015


Interviews are beginning to happen, and I have some very not official advice on how to rock yours. 

#1. Look pretty good. 
Some people really overshoot here. Your interview is not prom. Don’t cover yourself in AXE or whatever the kids are wearing these days. Don’t feel like you have to dress up, but you should shower sometime before your interview. Dress like you’re going to your slightly fancy grandma’s house, except your slightly fancy grandma’s house today is probably your local Starbucks. 


#2. Kinda know what to say. 
There’s a reason presidents have speech writers. I’m not saying that you should outsource your interview. That’s fraud, and you’d go to prison. But what I’m saying is that you should vaguely know how to respond to some questions. You know your interviewer will probably ask you, “Can you tell me about yourself?” or “Do you have any questions about X College?,” so practice with your dog/dad/sister/stuffed animal what you’re going to say with those questions. But also it’s not 2091 so Harvard doesn’t accept robots yet. So don’t memorize an answer. Just practice enough that you feel confident and comfortable. 


#3. Be genuine!
The interview is not the time to talk about your SAT scores. It is the time to talk about your life. If you tripped over your shoe laces and fell in the hallway today at school, talk about that! If your mom made you wear your dad’s goofy tie to this interview, talk about that! There’s no need to brag during the interview. All of your grades and awards and blah blah blah will be on your application. It’s cool to talk about your extracurriculars and all that good stuff when they ask you, but being phony is dumb. Just be yourself and let the conversation go where it goes. The most important part of your interview is letting your star personality shine through. Not that my interview was anything spectacular, but my interviewer knit her own scarf, so we talked about knitting and my mom’s knitting club for a while! And if you do something similar, that’s fine! You didn’t drop the ball.


Photograph of the author holding his sibling's child

If you became an uncle (like me!) and just bought an ugly Christmas sweater (like me!), talk about that!

#4. Ask some good questions.
The interview is as much for your application as it is for you. Chances are the alum interviewing you will want to talk about their good ol’ days back in college, so you’re not a pest if you ask them some good questions. The interview is a great time to get a good scoop on a college and ask some questions you couldn’t get answers to on the website, which might be hard to do at Harvard because our website is so comprehensive :) (give me a raise). 


#5. No schmoozing. 
No, no. Bad, bad.


#6. Try to be as comfy as possible. 
It’s nerve-wracking to have a one-on-one interview. But, don’t feel like you’re on trial. Try to be as comfy as you can possible be. If you’re at a coffee shop, order something you like. During my interview, I ordered a large coffee, and then I got all jittery and sweaty. So don’t do that, though.  Before you walk into your interview, say to yourself “I’m a boss” in the mirror. When you’re confident, you’ll be relaxed. And when you’re relaxed, your interview won’t be a chore but maybe it’ll be fun! 


#7. Be respectful and thankful!
Treat your interviewer like your significant other’s parent. They’re not the Queen of England, but be very respectful. These alums who interview you don’t get paid. They’re doing this because they love the school and they want to help applicants like you out. So make sure to thank them for taking time out of their lives to talk to you. If it’s a short interview, don’t worry, short and sweet is better than long and semisweet. 

The bottom line here is: don’t worry. Your interview supposedly will never make or break your application.

If you’re not offered an interview, that’s not a testament against you, that just means there weren’t enough alumni in your area. And that will definitely not count against you! 

If you are offered an interview great! It can only help you. And, besides, you’re gonna crush it! 


Dan Class of Alumni