Hello blog readers - I apologise for not having updated this blog in a while. I have been busy helping clients craft strong applications to MBA and other graduate programs. I cannot promise that I'll be posting a lot over the next few months, however if you need advice feel free to email me. If you are new to this site, please take a look around - there's lot of useful information in the form of interviews with students and admissions officers as well as my own thoughts on a variety of topics.
Effective interview preparation is the one part of the admissions process that most candidates overlook, or at least underestimate. Answering questions in an interview setting and doing so in a strategic, cohesive and impressive way does not come naturally to anyone. Careful preparation is required before you'll have the skills and confidence needed to be successful.
What's the solution? Live mock practice with people you trust to give you candid feedback on your performance. Ideally you'll work with an admissions counselor with a proven track record of success helping clients get into the program you are targeting. This will be effective - although it isn't the only way you'll practice. What do you do inbetween sessions with your counselor? Here's a plan that I recommend that will help you internalize your key interview messages while not memorizing anything.
(1) Develop visual keywords.
Once you (and your counselor or mentor) have arrived at the ideal answer to a given question, summarize it in the form of keywords. (Do not write out your answer word for word.) Choose keywords that'll help you recall core pieces of content in your answer.
(2) Practice using those visual aids.
Walk through your answers (out loud) using those keywords. Gradually you'll be able to give your answers without focusing too much on the notes. But if you forget what you want to say - it's okay to refer back to the keywords you've made.
(3) Adjust your visual aids as you practice.
Perhaps if you find that you are continually forgetting to add a part to your answer you should go back to the keywords and make some modifications.
(4) Focus your eyeline on something else.
As you practice giving your answers, it is a good idea to reduce your dependence on your keywords. But the key to this step is to not start looking at nothing, or letting your eyes wander about the room as you try to recall the things you want to say. Instead, focus your eyes on something else. Convince it of what you want to say!
Important point: if you are repeating your answers too much, to the point where they are starting to sound rehearsed (flat intonation, monotone delivery) then stop. Try the answer again a day or two later. In addition, many of my clients also record themselves. This is a good idea, although I advise them not to listen to their answer immediately after recording it. Instead, wait an hour or a day to put some space between the delivery and the feedback you intend to give yourself.
So - this is one way to practice. I find it highly effectively with more complex answers like stories, where there is a certain set of details that you want to get across in a particular order to tell the story effectively.
If you are still reading at this point, thank you. I am sure I have convinced you that interview practice is not enjoyable. This is true I think. It's meant to be something that you focus on, and that makes it difficult. But, when you are ready - and you know what you want to say and how you want to say it - you'll be comfortable and ready for you interview, and you'll be thankful that you prepared in the right away.