Currently viewing the tag: "Interviews"

On Monday we start up the fall student interviewer program.  I’ve spent much of my time this week constructing a schedule with our 40-or-so volunteer interviewers — bent over my desk, surrounded by yellow papers on which they’ve indicated the free time in their schedules.  It’s a little like one of those little number puzzles from back in the day:  I can slide this student into the Monday at 10:00 slot, but I’ll need to move that student into the Tuesday at 2:00 slot.  Right now, it’s all looking orderly, with a time assignment for most interviewers, and an interviewer for most time assignments, and there are still a few people I need to plug in.

Next week will be crazy, with lots of interviews already scheduled, but we’re looking forward to having students and applicants moving through the office every day, reminding us there are faces connected to the names we encounter through the Admissions process.

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As soon as I finish writing this post, I’m going to send an email message to our interviewers, thanking them for their work and inviting them to stop by the office to pick up a gratitude-loaded chocolate bar.  It goes without saying that a piece of chocolate could hardly represent the contribution they make to the admissions process.  The Admissions Office’s ability to offer as many as 40 interviews each week — plus three information sessions — depends on the enthusiasm of Fletcher students for the community and on their interest in contributing to the selection of future community members.

On the one hand, all we ask of our interviewers is a roughly 90-minute weekly commitment.  And we know that the opportunity to interview regularly can be a professional development opportunity, keeping those skills sharp.  On the other hand, we put the burden on interviewers to find their own substitutes, even during midterm exams.  We demand that their notes arrive quickly after the interview, regardless of what they have going on during the day.  (And we tell them they need to look nice, though they may be coming from the gym.)  In a sense, it’s not the time they offer each appointment, but the steady full-semester commitment that we so appreciate.  And interviewees appreciate them, too — the evaluation surveys that interviewees are invited to complete are extraordinarily positive.

We’ll continue to offer a very limited schedule of interviews (most of which are already booked — remember that interviews remain optional) until January 15, drawing on our student interns, a few in-town volunteers, and Admissions staff, but the experience for those who visit Fletcher during the winter break is never as satisfying as a mid-semester visit.  We take pride in our visit program, through which applicants can be students for a day.  The focus for most visitors is the evaluative interview.  Many, many thanks to our student interviewers for helping us to make it happen.

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One of the best things I do at Fletcher each year is work with the students who have volunteered to conduct evaluative interviews.  (Note:  Take advantage of their generous contribution of time by arranging for an interview today!  Student interviews run only through December 10.) And we have a really great group this fall — great not only because they show up on time, but because they have wonderful insights into the process.  Today, Marc Frankel, a MALD student who started last January, shares his unusual dual perspective.

Interviewing for graduate school can be tough – not only have I been there myself, but I’m still there now.  I’m Marc and I’m in my second semester here at the Fletcher School.  I play on the intramural soccer team, I’m in the Fletcher Business Club, and I write the occasional article for the local humor newspaper, the Fletcher Ledger.  I’m also an admissions volunteer, which means that once a week, I spend an hour or so interviewing prospective Fletcher candidates.

During my time here at Fletcher, I’ve decided that I’d like to pursue a joint degree with an MBA program.  I’m in the process of applying to schools now, so I’m writing the same types of essays and enduring the same interview anxiety as many of the prospective students I interview.  Being both an interviewer and an interviewee has given me a few insights I’d like to share with this year’s applicants:

#1)  Be candid.  As an interviewer, I can tell whether you’re legitimately passionate about what you’re applying for or whether you’re just saying what you think we want to hear.  If you’re going to drive all the way up here, get dressed up, and spend an hour with us in an interview, you owe it to yourself to let us get to know you openly and honestly.  I’m a lot more impressed with people who are proud of their accomplishments than I am with someone who spends 20 minutes trying to explain how their job “kinda sorta” fits their idea of a program here.

#2)  Be informed.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask questions about the program, but it does mean that you’ve done your homework on the easily-researched basics such as required courses, fields of study, and the number of students here.  These points are all easy to find online, and familiarity shows that you’re serious about your application.

#3)  Do the little things right.  The logo on your shirt or the bond weight of your résumé paper isn’t going to make much of a difference to us, but if you’re late or sloppily dressed, or if you don’t bring a copy of your résumé, we’re going to notice.  Be comfortable at your interview, but treat it professionally.  On that note…

#4)   RELAX!  Believe me, I had the sweaty palms and the jitters before my business school interviews, so I know what you’re going through, but just take it easy.  Your interview is a half-hour when all you really need to do is talk about yourself (the subject you know the most about).  So perk up, smile, and look forward to it.

I know a lot of this is common sense, but I also know how hard it can be to heed common sense when it’s time for your interview.  Just remember to be yourself: the interviewer on the other side of the table will appreciate it.

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There’s always a lot going on here, but much of my time during the first weeks of September is devoted to our evaluative interview program. Starting next Monday, we’ll be running a schedule with about 35 interviews each week conducted by current students. Toward the end of the semester, we add quite a few staff interviews, too. It’s a busy little operation, with applicants and interviewers flowing in and out of the office all day.

Coming up with the interviewer assignments is like completing a puzzle. Just when I think I have a viable draft schedule, I learn that an interviewer has switched from one class to another, and now has a conflict with the assigned time slot. Somehow it all comes together and requires very little intervention from me as the semester goes on.

What do we tell the interviewers during their training? The basics — turn up on time, keep the atmosphere relaxed, remember to turn in your report on the interview, etc. We tell them that the office staff is here to support them, and that they should always feel free to bring interviewees to the office to ask questions. The majority of our interviewers have conducted interviews in their work or community activities, so it’s mostly a matter of plugging them into the Fletcher system.

I love the interview program. It’s great for applicants who can take the time to visit — they have a chance to share information about themselves and to gather information from someone who was in the same position a year ago. And it’s great for the current students — their input is very valuable to the Admissions Committee, and they enjoy meeting people who could be sitting next to them in class in the future.

Much as I value the program, I know that it has its shortcomings. Interviews are, as a rule, limited to campus. We can’t, in general, match interviewers and interviewees on the basis of research interests. We don’t have appropriately private space for students to conduct telephone interviews, so we don’t offer them. In other words, the interview program is limited in scope. Nonetheless, we consider it a success and we’re happy to offer it.

To schedule an interview, you can email us or reach us by phone. We’ll set you up with an appointment, and send information on what to expect during your visit.

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I’m a big proponent of taking advantage of our optional evaluative interviews.  Every fall, I try to drum up some early business for us — I like to keep our student interviewers busy each week.

I’m still a big proponent, but I’m not trying to drum up business anymore.  As of November 21, the schedule was essentially full.  (There are still a few appointments available for LLM program applicants.)  We’re always sorry to turn anyone down, but we’ve added as many new appointments as we can, and they’ve all been taken.

So what should you do if you really hope to interview?  You can call each week to check on cancellations.  In fact, yesterday afternoon an applicant canceled due to illness.  We immediately offered his 10:00 appointment to someone who happened to call after he did.  And a quick check this morning showed me that there has been another cancellation for a January date. There’s a chance you might snare one of these slots if you contact us periodically.

Otherwise, please remember that the optional evaluative interviews, though valuable, are optional.  There is no penalty for not interviewing.  The majority of our applicants live far enough away that visiting this fall is not a possibility.

Future applicants:  If you are reading this entry in fall 2008, knowing that you will apply in fall 2009, please take note!  Don’t wait until December ’09 to try for an interview appointment.  Every year the schedule fills by November.  Though we offer interviews through January 15, that doesn’t mean you would be well advised to wait until January 14 to book one.

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