The interviewing process is well underway for the ICO graduating class of 2020. Interviewing for anything, in general, can be quite nerve racking. I remember my first of six optometry school interviews and how nervous I was. By the last interview, however, I was comfortable and confident with the process. I also began to notice trends between interviews as far as what was expected. Looking back on the process, I thought I would compile a short list of advice for students who are soon to experience an interview of their own.
1. Have confidence
This is arguably the most important aspect of the interview. I am not only talking about acting and speaking confidently during the actual interview. More importantly, you must have confidence that this is, without a doubt, the career which you are prepared to invest in. Countless hours of studying, sleepless nights, and maybe even some significant debt are ahead of you if you are accepted. If you are confident in your career choice and are prepared to make sacrifices, the confidence usually reflects in the interview.
2. Silence is OK
I had an English teacher in high school that always said this. It’s a normal human tendency to fill those awkward silences in conversation with “umm’s,” or to just try to keep the conversation going by any means necessary. For one, depending on who is interviewing you, they may find your excessive use of “umm’s” tacky or unprofessional. It’s best just to try to eliminate them completely. Secondly (and this was one of my weaknesses especially), when you try to keep the conversation going, you can end up saying something that you later wish you hadn’t. Strive to avoid nervous talking. Embrace the gaps in conversations. They only last for a second.
3. Be an individual
It’s easy to forget that there are hundreds of others competing for a seat just like you are. Those who have been invited for an interview have also met the course, GPA, and OAT requirements; the interviewing process is used to sort out the best applicants. You want to separate yourself from the other candidates. What is it that you would bring to the table that others couldn’t? Contributing some uniqueness makes you a more competitive applicant on interview day. One of the purposes of an interview is to see if the applicant is a right fit for the school. Show them why you should be accepted.
4. Ask questions
Another purpose of an interview is to see if the school is the right fit for you. The best way to do this is to ask questions. You are going to spend 4 years of your life at the school. It would be to your benefit to find out as much about the school as you can before you are enrolled. Usually people are bit timid, nervous, and maybe even intimidated on interview day. It’s easy to fly under the radar, but really, it is to your benefit to ask as many questions as you can. Ask about student housing, extracurriculars, courses, professors, scheduling, living, and anything else that’s on your mind.
5. Do some research about the school before your interview
You can impress whoever is interviewing you by having a general background knowledge of the school. This may not only impress the interviewing staff, but also shows initiative; you took the time to look into the school and prepare for the interview. This doesn’t mean you have to know everything about the school, but knowing a bit about the history, class size, course schedule, and things of the like would be to your advantage. With that in mind, make sure you have your facts right.
BONUS TIP: The interview isn’t the only part of the application process
This extra tip is a friendly reminder to those who dread one-on-one interviews. For some people, interviewing might not be your strong suit. That is okay. There are many things taken into account before one is accepted. Certainly, grades are important; you need to be good on paper before you can get your foot in the door. Extracurriculars and involvement are also important, as well as your letters of recommendation from professors and optometrist(s) that you shadowed. Your interview does not have to be perfect for you to be accepted. This should take some pressure off.
Hopefully, this advice serves useful to some prospective ICO applicants. If you are one of those applicants who knows they are not good at interviewing, these few points can certainly help you. If you are already confident in your interviewing, hopefully this list shed light on a new approach to interviewing. To all of those interviewing at ICO in the next few months, good luck!