MFA Admissions Skype Interviews
A few days ago I had my last Skype interview as part of the MFA application process. Although some schools do have interview days where you visit the school itself, Skype interviews are becoming very popular for MFA admissions and hiring in general. At my current job, I have sat in on many Skype interviews including ones for senior positions, so I thought I knew what to expect. However Skype interviews are very different when you are the interviewee! Here are a few things I felt it would be important for applicants to know:
· Testing Skype
I have sat in on interviews where candidates were unfamiliar with Skype, therefore they fumbled with the technology which greatly detracted from the interview. So a few days before the interview I:
o Made a practice call to a friend
o Adjusted my laptop screen and volume settings accordingly
o Disabled any popups, alerts, etc. that might disrupt the interview
o Made sure to add my interviewer’s Skype name to my contacts list
· Location of the interview
Just because the interview is via Skype, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to your surroundings and how they will appear/sound on camera.
Things to consider:
· Animals *Of interviews I have sat in on, one candidate had dogs in the next room barking so loudly I could barely hear her
· Fans and other “white” noises * Another candidate had a ceiling fan which buzzed just loudly enough to create an annoying static noise.
· Lighting * Yet another candidate had lighting soo dim, they were barely visible
· Make sure your computer is situated where the internet connection will not lag or disconnect!
· Other people-Make sure your interview location is free of other people who might interrupt or be distracting in the background
I set my laptop up in my studio and shut the door so that my cat didn’t interrupt the interview. I also made sure to clean my studio and that that there wasn’t anything dirty or distracting in the background. On the flip side, I did have my cello sitting directly behind me, which turned out to be a great conversation starter for one of my interviews.
· Physical appearance
Again, just because the interview is via Skype does not mean it is more “casual” than any other interview. Dress professionally. Also, pay attention to your body language
· What to say and do during the interview
Skype admissions interviews can vary greatly in content, as sometimes you will be interviewed by a committee, sometimes there will be a specific set of questions you are asked, and sometimes the interview has a much more casual format. Here are some tips:
o Watch other Skype interviews (Youtube and career websites). As silly as it may sound, you can learn a lot about the dos and don’ts of Skype interviews by watching others.
o Practice your “pitch” with friends and family
o Pay attention to your body language, especially if you talk with your hands. While this can be a positive interview technique, too much movement will not translate well via Skype.
o Have your application materials, program information, notes and any additional materials, like artists who influence, you in front of you so that you may refer to it. Printed copies are best so you don’t risk tech fails while searching for the info on your computer.
o Try to anticipate what questions you might be asked and be ready to answer questions like:
- “Why do you want to study at x program?”
- “How do you know you are ready for grad school?”
- “What are some examples of artists who influence your work?” “Looking a few months into the future, what type of projects do you want to be working on/what ideas for future projects do you have?”
- “What can you contribute to our program?”
- “How do you feel about working closely with other artists?”
*I did not prepare well for the “artists I am influence by” question, and in my nervousness I completely forgot the name of one very important artist and struggled to explain myself. If I had the artist’s name and work in front of me, I wouldn’t have had a problem.
o Have questions ready to ask your interviewers. These could be questions about the next steps of the application process, conditions of admission that were not clear on the website, access to materials and studio space within the program, etc. Asking questions shows your interest in the program.
o Allow your interviewer adequate time to talk and complete each thought before you answer. Interrupting your interviewer is rude in person, but Skype can exacerbate the problem by causing lags and delays in speech processing. By allowing time for your interviewer to finish speaking, not only do you assure them that you are engaged but you also ensure that they will actually hear your answer.
· Day of the interview
o Make sure you are ready for the interview to start at least 10-15 minutes before the start time to allow for any technical difficulties.
o If possible, clear your day or the hours before and after the interview.
*I chose to have one of my interviews during my lunch break from work. This made it more stressful because I had to drive home before the interview. After the interview I was unproductive at work because I was very preoccupied thinking about it and planning for my next interview. For the following interviews I left work early to give myself adequate time before and after.
o Avoid eating/ drinking right before and especially during the interview.
Lastly, just be sure to be your genuine self! If you are feeling nervous, just remember that you KNOW yourself and your work! The admissions committee has responded positively to your work and chosen YOU for an interview, and they are trying to get a sense of who you are and how you might fit into their program.
That is all I have for now, but please feel free to email me any questions at email@example.com!