All interviews are “fit” interviews. No matter what else is happening during an interview in terms of content or style, your interviewer is also trying to decide whether or not you are a good match for the community. Toward that end, here are some general guiding principles that can help you excel in any interview:

Express enthusiasm.

The person interviewing you — whether it’s a student, an alum or an admissions officer — is proud of their school.  They are looking for candidates who are enthusiastic about joining the community, and who would also be proud of the affiliation. I have interviewed candidates who telegraphed the idea that they could do better, including one memorable applicant who told me that he thought of Tuck as a backup school before visiting, but now that he was on campus, he was starting to get genuinely interested. The candidate seemed to think that I would be pleased and honored to know that he was deigning to consider the school, which brings me to my next point:

Be respectful.

I am not suggesting that you act obsequious or that you should be intimidated by the interviewer. However, it is always a good idea to signal that you are taking the conversation — and your candidacy — seriously. For example, please do not show up late.  Or in casual clothes. Or chewing gum. And under no circumstances should you answer your phone, text or check your email.

Be prepared.

This is part of being respectful, and it also enables the interviewer to ask more detailed questions. A genuine conversation is more memorable. Also, if the interviewer does not have to spend 20 minutes trying to understand your goals or your work experience, they have the latitude to delve into your leadership skills, extracurricular activities, international experience, etc. You want the committee to learn as much about you as possible, and the interview is a great forum to discuss the factors that help you to stand out.

Ask good questions.

You have to ask at least one great question at the end of the interview. And you need to ask something that reflects judgment, initiative and some prior effort. For instance, please do not ask something basic that is readily found on the website, like class size. You should also avoid asking how the interview went — yes, that happens, and no, it’s not appropriate.  A good example might be something like “I read that the school has decided to offer more international opportunities. I am interested in studying in Latin America, given my long-term goal of opening a microfinance firm there. Can you tell me more about that opportunity?” Other possible examples of good questions include asking your interviewer (if they are a current student) their favorite experience at the school or what has surprised them most about their time there.

Demonstrate impact.

All interviewers are looking for candidates who match the caliber of the current student body and who will represent the school well. A “fit” applicant will impress recruiters, excel out in the world and support the institution in the future. Talk about any impact you have had on past communities, and about your continued affiliation, even after making a transition. You want the interviewer to understand that by admitting you, they are gaining someone with the potential to contribute while at school and after they graduate.

Your mission in all interviews is to connect with your interviewer, and demonstrate enthusiasm, competence, potential and poise.  Keeping these principles in mind will bring you one step closer to gaining admission to your top choice school.

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Karen Marks

Karen has more than 12 years of experience evaluating candidates for admission to Dartmouth College and to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. Since founding North Star Admissions Consulting in 2012, she has helped applicants gain admission to the nation’s top schools, including Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Wharton, MIT, Tuck, Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Duke, Johnson, Ross, NYU, UNC, UCLA, Georgetown and more. Clients have been awarded more than $70 million dollars in scholarships, and more than 98% have gotten into one of their top choice schools.
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