Friday, February 13, 2009

Apples to WTF?

I interview for my undergraduate alma mater. I meet each applicant at a coffee shop near my office, ask softball questions about academic interests, extracurricular experiences, why XYZ College. The only hard ones I throw in are, "How would your closest friends and family describe you?" and "What are people surprised to learn about you?" both of which I was asked in my HBS interview. I give each applicant the opportunity to ask me questions. The whole thing takes about an hour and is quite painless and predictable, in my opinion.

However, almost every interview leaves me disappointed and I'm wondering if that is because I just went through the business school application process and have unreasonable standards that should not be applied to 17-year-old high school seniors. You be the judge:

me: So talk to me about your interest in XYZ College.
interviewee: It has a great academic reputation. Plus, I like the east coast.
[silence]
me: Have you thought about what you might study?
interviewee:
I'm thinking about studying economics.
me:
Oh really, tell me why you're interested in that subject.
interviewee: My dad is in business and that always seemed interesting to me. XYZ College doesn't have a business major, so I figure econ is the closest.

Some of these experiences are cringe-worthy. Two applicants this year did not contact me to schedule their interviews. Their mothers did. One student called me up, asking to schedule an interview with an entirely different college. Another turned the interview around and started drilling me about my career progression. One told me at least three times how combative he is with his teachers and other students. The other end of the spectrum includes applicants with 3-page résumés, rehearsed platitudinous answers, and plastered smiles. Once a year, I encounter a talented, articulate, thoughtful young applicant. And that applicant usually gets rejected.

So it is not with sadness that I inform you that college interviewing has ended for the season. I do wonder if the two applicants I rated highest this year will be admitted. Last year, I gave just one "outstanding" rating and that applicant was rejected. Maybe XYZ College is just humoring old alumni who want to stay connected to the school. If so, dear alma mater, please spare me.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am also an alumni interviewer, and I can completely sympathize. I have had everything from a student who told me that he'd had to run from the police multiple times to students who won't answer anything with more than a few words - when I asked one person who his role models were and why, he replied, "My parents," and after more prompting, gave me only a one-sentence explanation before we returned to an awkward silence.

Palo Alto for a While said...

It drives me crazy! I mean these kids spend YEARS prepping for the SAT and they can't spend an hour or two considering what their values and goals are.

Ronin said...

Lol funny.. Well for most 17 and 18 year olds even though they might look good on paper probably have not engaged and had meaningful conversations about their goals at that age etc.. But it's all relative, your blog doesn't say what undergrad school in the case if it's a highly ranked top school then yes I would expect to meet a mature high achieving teenager prepared to speak about their ambitions and goals.

nish said...

This article simply ROCKS ! That was a great read for me. keep it up with all the good work..
bba

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