An increasing number of US colleges are adopting online interviews as part of their admissions process, with Oxbridge also offering online interviews to some international candidates. As with in-person interviews, preparation is key to make sure they go smoothly. We've pulled together everything you need to know to prepare successfully.
As with any interview, you’re going to need to do plenty of prep if you want to ace it via video call. The fact you’re reading this is a good start! Here are some pointers to get you on your way:
- Review your application.
- Think about why you chose this particular programme and university, what you hope to achieve whilst you’re there, and what you could bring to the university. What experience and skills can you bring to the programme that will set you apart from other candidates?
- Do your research – if you’re planning on studying Philosophy, for example, find out exactly what modules are on offer and what research the department has published recently. Do their interests and specialisms align with your own?
- Consider your interests outside of academia too. Are there any societies, groups or events you want to get involved with? Are you hoping to set one up yourself? What are you interested in at the moment? Interviewers will often ask you what you’re reading, or your opinion on a current affairs issue.
- Consider your intentions after university and how this programme will help you to prepare for those intentions. If you have a specific career path in mind, this bit should be fairly straight-forward, but it’s possible that you don’t. If that’s the case, it’s OK to outline two or three options, as long as you’re clear on the skills and attributes you’ll need to go for those options, and how this programme will help you to achieve those.
- Practise. Some people find talking with a webcam a little strange at first. Set up some practice calls with friends or family and get a feel for how it works. You can even record yourself and watch it back to see how you come across.
- Test your equipment. Technology is a wonderful thing, when it works. Make sure your laptop is charged, your webcam works, and you have a stable internet connection.
- Find a quiet place. You want as few distractions as possible when you’re carrying out your interview. Avoid a busy Starbucks or the family kitchen (as much as your mum might want to say hi) and find a place where you won’t be interrupted.
When the day of the interview comes round, you want to make sure you’re well-rested and fully prepared. You can impress in the interview with a few useful techniques:
- Dress to impress. Comfortable as they are, your jammies aren’t likely to make a strong impression on the interviewer. Dress as smart as you would for a regular interview (at least on top!)
- Connect early. Don’t leave your logging on until the last minute. Give yourself plenty of time to get settled, test your connection, and make sure everything is working well.
- Smile. Although you’re not physically opposite the interviewer(s), make sure you give off positive body language. Sit up straight, smile, relax, maintain eye contact where appropriate, and don’t fold your arms.
- Don’t panic. The interviewer might ask questions you don’t understand or hear correctly. Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves. Equally, ask questions about the things they talk about.
- Be yourself. Remember, they want to see what you’re like as a person, so let your personality shine through. Show enthusiasm for your chosen programme and unleash some of your killer knowledge.
Whatever the outcome of the interview, take it as a learning experience. There are a few things you can do after you’ve finished to solidify what you’ve learned:
- Breathe. Once the call ends (and you’re sure the camera is off), let out a deep breath and take a moment to reflect on how it went. Which answers went well? Did you struggle on any topics? These are important areas to assess, particularly if you have more interviews coming up.
- Make notes. If you do have more interviews, write down your reflections and think about how you can change your answers and prepare for the next one.
- Play the waiting game. After you’re done with your interview(s), you can bask in reflective glory and await the decision of the university. Other, more fun games do exist, but they’re probably not as rewarding.
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