The Master’s admission interview can seem like the last step before admission, but it is the first to mark you out as a potentially desirable recruit. So desirable, that you can even get a scholarship offer.
Depending on the university, and even each particular program, the admissions interview can be a part of the selection process that every applicant undergoes, but in some cases only the pre-selected ones are actually invited, explains Iliana Bobova, international education and career coach at Advent Group. She highlights that in the latter case, those invited can celebrate that they have passed the pre-selection stage successfully, but they should take the upcoming interview really seriously because it can be a truly pivotal moment in their admission.
Interview performance is especially important for scholarship applicants because a scholarship is a reward for academic performance and potential for success in graduate school. It brings financial aid that relieves the student of financial worries, but also acts as an incentive for the student to enroll in the particular program. The last simply says: We would love to have you in our next class. You have really impressed us with your overall application.
Interview tip #1: Prepare
Preparation is key to acing the Master’s admissions interview. Knowing what to expect, and preparing for it, means you are already halfway along the road to success. There are two main obligatory discussion topics during the admission interview: motivation and expertise.
However, you need to start by understanding the format of the interview and also who you will be talking to. Is this going to be a telephone interview, a face-to-face interview, or a video interview? Also, who is going to be interviewing you? Is it going to be an admissions officer, a professor, an alumnus? Make sure to find out all these details before your preparations start in earnest. There are a lot of important details to take care of depending on the type of interview.
Motivation is the main theme of the Master’s admissions interview. You need to be able to explain clearly why you want to become a student at the given university. This includes both the particular program and the educational institution itself. In most cases, the main part of this particular topic will be dedicated to the course itself.
Tell the interviewer what you want to learn and why.
Let’s say that you’ve applied to study Business.
You say you want to start your own business one day, but that is not “motivational” enough. You have to be able to explain why you think this program will help you learn more about entrepreneurship, risk-assessment and management.
Let’s say that you’ve applied to study Finance.
You say you are fascinated with numbers and hard sciences. So what? Explain how one day what you learn during this course, will help you optimize the operations budget of, say, a manufacturing company.
The other major part of the admissions interview will be about your professional or academic expertise, although this will also be linked to your motivation.
In my last blog post, I mentioned that you will be expected to have relevant experience in the field of your desired Master’s studies. At this point you would have already proven that you do, but now you must be prepared to talk about it.
Reread what you have written in your Master's application (essays, questions, cover letter) and use that as the basis upon which to build your verbal arguments.
Explain how the Bachelor’s degree has given you broad knowledge in your professional field, but now you want to gain even more skills and an even deeper understanding of your profession. This will show the recruiter that you have the necessary background, but you also understand what a Master’s degree will ultimately grant you – an actual profession.
Finally, prepare something to say at the end of the interview. You will be given the opportunity to say a few words following your conversation with the admission officer, so have a closing statement prepared. It is best to say something personal – perhaps what has inspired you to study further. Just avoid any clichés. They will work against you.
Interview tip #2: Relax
This might seem like the most obvious advice since your parents told you how to cross the road but many people feel enormous stress when talking to an admissions representative.. Don’t worry – it will be the same, or maybe it was, at your first job interview. However, as the Brits would say, you must keep calm. The worst aspect of being stressed during the interview is not that your voice trembles over the phone. It is the very real prospect of you forgetting what you planned, or in fact knew for certain what you had to say. It’s like that exam in high school. You thought you were well prepared but your knowledge mysteriously evaporated the moment you saw the questions. No, that was not a moment of temporary amnesia. It was the stress overcoming your brain.
Relieving yourself of unnecessary stress prior to the admissions interview will allow you to have a clear and concise presentation. That will convince the recruiter that you are a confident and cool-headed person – someone the school will be proud to count among its alumni one day. Failing to fix that tangibly shaky voice will make you seem somewhat unprepared.
Interview tip #3: Articulate
If you don’t want your interview to be an annoying “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?” ping-pong match between you and the admission officer, you absolutely must learn to articulate. This is an especially important phone and online video interview tip. Some people have a general problem with articulation, and some of you might have even visited a speech therapist as a child. If you have a known speech impediment, and I’m not talking about a problem with pronouncing the letter “R”, it would be best if you informed the interviewer at the beginning of the interview. For the rest of you, here is what you need to do:
• Stir up the muscles in your mouth. This is not a joke. Hollywood actors do it all the time.
• Extend your voice forward. Make sure it comes from the front of your mouth and not from the back.
• Speak clearly. Don’t just think about doing it. Practice it.
• Do not mumble. Emphasize the phonetic sounds that characterize each word.
• Pronounce the words in their entirety. Think of the words you’re saying as constructed of different parts that make up the whole, not as one word that you have to spit out as fast as possible.
• Maintain a steady pace in your speech.
Interview tip #4: Impress
Admission officers will judge everything you say. This particularly applies to the most demanding universities. Many parts of the interview will move away from the subject of admission. You should prepare to discuss your interests and hobbies as confidently and concisely as you answer questions related to the classic admissions interview topics of expertise and motivation. When you say that you are interested in politics and current affairs, you should be able to talk about the latest developments in your country or internationally. This part of the conversation is designed to evaluate the width and depth of your interests and the extent of your curiosity.
In a 2020 article for career website Prospects.ac.uk, Professor Gareth Griffiths gave several examples of questions you can expect during a postgraduate interview. Those include "Can you tell me about yourself?", "Describe your dream job in the future", or "What difficult decision have you had to make in the last six months?".
Other things to consider here concern your overall presentation and here are some more interview tips:
• Talk about things that you know about. If it is not related to your admission, there is no harm in saying “I’m sorry, I'm not familiar with this topic”
• Be polite and well-mannered. If the connection is bad or the accent of the admission officer is too unfamiliar to you, kindly ask to hear the question again.
• Do not try to use language above your current level. Your TOEFL or IELTS test score already attest to your overall language skills.
• Do not try to speak with a native English accent, but also try not to sound like you’ve just pronounced your first English word.
Check out: 8 Challenging MBA Interview Questions
Interview tip #5: Smile
You know that feeling when you can actually “hear” the smile on someone’s face when you talk to them on the phone?
Admission officers are very experienced in dealing with potential students, but they are only human, and everybody likes a positive person. So be that person. Be positive. Remember to smile whenever appropriate and to enjoy the conversation.
However objective an admission officer is, you have everything to gain by making a good personal impression.
In the end, what is a Master's admissions interview but two people talking about their common future?
Check out: Interview Preparation Tips for B-School Admission