A Good Interview
The Context of an Interview
There are many strong students and many strong colleges in the country. Students and colleges alike seek those matches that constitute the best fit of individual and institutional needs and attitudes. Just as we at Wesleyan are attempting to determine what makes a particular student compelling, the prospective student, too, is trying to determine what makes Wesleyan compelling.
It is important, then, for us to keep in mind that we are attempting to facilitate an environment of dialogue and discovery in the interview itself, just as we are in the classroom. We hope that the interview may function as much as an educational tool as an evaluative one.
The Role of an Interview
As with teacher recommendations and the application essay, the interview offers us an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of a candidate. An interview is one of several approaches we employ to get a sense of a candidate’s intellectual curiosity, academic and extracurricular commitment, and personal qualities, such as motivation, open-mindedness and the ability to both criticize and empathize. Through an interview, we may be able to develop a better understanding of how an applicant engages the world around him/her.
The interview serves as yet another tool in our on-going quest to construct a vibrant campus community comprised of passionately involved and proactive students. We are seeking students who demonstrate a genuine interest in participating in a collaborative and supportive, yet challenging, environment which fosters exploration and growth through honest dialogue inside and outside the classroom.
The Feel of an Interview
The interviews that reveal the most – and, moreover, are usually the most enjoyable for all involved – are those that most resemble relaxed conversations. In order for such a conversation to take place, the interviewer must be perceived as being genuinely interested and invested in the interviewee and his/her candidacy. Of course, it is easy to remain interested when we consider that the interview is a mutually beneficial opportunity for both parties involved to learn more about each other and, indeed, themselves!
An interviewer can further contribute to the relaxed atmosphere of an interview by choosing not to take notes during the interview itself. Not only is it unnecessary to take detailed notes, it can also be counterproductive, since the process of taking notes may keep one from listening attentively and, consequently, disrupt the fluidity of a conversation. Moreover, instead of jotting down impressions during an interview, an interviewer should strive to remain open-minded and to postpone judgment until the conclusion of the interview in its entirety.
The Form of an InterviewAs in all of those dynamic discussions that are always taking place at Wesleyan, the interview, too, should take the form of a dialogue. Hopefully, the prospective student is as interested in attaining some insight into the spirit of Wesleyan as we are interested in his/her spirit. Thus, the student shouldn’t feel examined, but empowered – empowered to speak, to inquire, and to learn. An ideal interview is not at all an interrogation, but rather a comfortable conversation.
One of the first and foremost of an interviewer’s tasks is to put the student at ease. To this end, it is often helpful to begin with easier questions which demand descriptive, rather than analytical, responses. Some examples of such questions: “How do you like your senior year?”; “What classes are you taking?”; “How was your summer?”
Starting an interview with less demanding questions may contribute to making the interviewee feel more relaxed. Moreover, an easier question, such as “tell me about your high school,” can certainly serve as a launching board into a much larger, more incisive, dialogic inquiry that reveals a great deal regarding an interviewee’s thoughts on an important topic, such as diversity.
Furthermore, there are no particular questions that must be asked during every single interview. The interviewer certainly ought not to feel compelled to be so comprehensive as to touch upon every rated characteristic.
The Evaluation of an InterviewIt is perfectly acceptable to select “unable to assess” for one or more of the evaluative criteria. We are very much more interested in the written evaluation than in the numerical ratings.
Keep in mind that the written evaluation is not a moment-by-moment description. We are not looking so much for a detailed account as we are for your general impressions, illustrated with a handful of specific examples from the interview.
Tell us what you think about the candidate’s capacity to succeed at, and contribute to, your alma mater. What would s/he gain from Wesleyan? What would s/he give to Wesleyan? What would this person add that makes him/her unique and remarkable?
Let us know how this prospective student would help Wesleyan continue be a place where broadminded, openhearted individuals freely and honestly share their ideas and experiences.