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Top Five Graduate School Interview Tips

02 Aug

As a graduate student, you’re going to be fielding a lot of advice. It starts before you enter the program—with application tips and strategies for how to craft the perfect essay—and it carries right on through to graduation. Graduate school interview preparation, in particular, is a topic prospective students should thoroughly research. Below are our top five graduate school interview tips for getting through the process, whether you’re interviewing in person, over the phone or via video.

Be Prepared

Before going into your interview, read up on the program. What makes it unique? Why are you interested in this program in particular? If you know the name of your interviewer, it’s also a good idea to look them up online. Learn a little bit about them to form a solid basis for a thoughtful, productive conversation.

Once you’ve done your research, find a friend or colleague and conduct a practice interview. It might seem counterintuitive, but practicing is a great way to help you act more naturally in your actual interview.1 Think of it this way: You aren’t practicing your answers, you’re practicing answering. This will help to take the pressure off finding your words once you’re actually in the interview, and that can help you relax.

Listen, Then Talk

This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing what happens when nerves come into play. Just because you’ve done practice interviews doesn’t mean you should be on autopilot. Engage with your interviewer and really listen to what they’re asking you. Be prepared for follow-up questions and remember: This is a conversation. Your interviewer wants to get a sense of who you are as a person. Pay attention to what’s being asked of you, then answer honestly and with humility.2

Note: If you’re interviewing via video and want to make eye contact with your interviewer to show that you’re engaged, you’re actually going to want to look at the camera, NOT at the screen.

Anticipate the Unexpected

You can’t anticipate everything that will be asked of you, so readying yourself to roll with the punches is an essential step in your graduate school interview preparation. You may be asked about your weaknesses, or about a time you failed. You might get asked a follow-up question that seems to come out of left field. Don’t let it throw you. Always stay grounded and come back to the essentials: You’re here to let your interviewer and, by extension, the program of your choice get to know you a little bit better.

If you get a question that leaves you feeling unprepared, remain calm and answer it with grace. It might just be that your interviewer wants to see how well you can think on your feet.

Prepare Questions

At some point, your interviewer will probably ask if you have any questions. Don’t say no! Before you even start practicing, keep track of any questions you have about the program. Craft intelligent questions to show your interviewer you’re paying attention and that you are invested in the program. Here’s one to get you started: “In your opinion, what is your program’s greatest asset?” 3

Don’t Neglect the Little Things

Consider some basic, but fail-safe, graduate school interview preparations you can complete. Get a good night’s sleep the night before the interview. Make sure you have enough time before your interview for a shower. If you’re interviewing by phone or video, make sure you’re in a quiet place free of noise and distractions. Pick a clean, professional outfit and iron all items the day before. (This goes for video interviews, too.) Arrive for the interview early so you have time to collect your thoughts and get the lay of the land.

It’s a good sign that you’re seeking out graduate school interview tips, as research and preparation are crucial to success in any master's program, including the online programs in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business. Looking for more tips before you apply? Check out our infographic on writing a graduate school essay or our blog post on building your resume.

  1. Retrieved on March 6, 2019, from poetsandquants.com/2017/11/14/6-tips-for-acing-the-mba-interview/
  2. Retrieved on March 7, 2019, from forbes.com/sites/mattsymonds/2013/01/08/10-tips-for-acing-the-mba-interview/#3dbe1836755b
  3. Retrieved on March 7, 2019, from usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/2012/08/03/5-questions-to-ask-during-mba-admissions-interviews