Monday, January 17, 2011
Interviews serve purpose
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
Dear Mr. Bradshaw:-- I am a junior in college and will interview for veterinary school this month. I'm really nervous about the entire process; I'm not sure what to wear to how to answer questions.
The interview is scheduled to last an hour. We will be interviewed by six individuals in separate rooms. A different question will be posted outside each door and we will be given two minutes to prepare.
Can you give me any guidance? -- Student
Dear student -- Keep in mind that the main reason a college interview is important is because it is conducted by a live person.
The formal application reveals only so much about an applicant. The difficulty of your classes, grades, grade-point average and writing ability all play roles.
What the interview is designed to do is go beyond these formal qualifications and discover something about you that only a live meeting will reveal.
Interviews for vet school are a lot like interviews for medical school. They are designed to see how well you perform under pressure. That is why they typically are conducted by several interviewers, with each one looking for different personality traits.
Do you panic when faced with a question you don't know how to answer?
Do you stumble over questions, lose eye contact, fidget with an article of clothing? Remember Capt. Queeg in Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny"?
Or do you exhibit confidence and greet each question with an eagerness that shows you can think on your feet?
Multiple interviews normally follow a good-cop, bad-cop script. One interviewer will be nice and easy to talk to; the other will be tough and cold -- bordering on rudeness.
They are looking for how well you can handle mood changes and difficult situations. Many of their questions will have no right answer, which is their purpose.
The bad cop will say, "Tell me about your three best traits and three worst traits."
Besides being nerve-racking and a little insulting, this question still is among the most frequently asked because it puts you on the spot.
If you are not careful, you can come off sounding egotistical or, at the other end of the spectrum, a self-effacing procrastinator.
The good cop might ask, "If admitted, what do you think you will contribute?"
The bad cop might ask, "What makes you think you are better than everyone else applying for admissions?"
The good cop might ask, "If your family were sitting in on this interview, what story would they tell you to tell me?"
For what are the interviewers looking? Some degree of authenticity.
They know you want to be a veterinarian and have invested heavily in the pursuit of that goal. But not everyone has the personality to take on those professional challenges.
One of my clients planned on going into the Army Veterinarian Corps after graduation.
During her interview she was given this hypothetical situation. If she were taking care of the general's dog and discovered it had been badly abused, would she write him up in the report? Her captain told her it could lead to her being transferred to the Aleutian Islands for the rest of her enlistment.
Clearly, they were looking for elements of integrity and honesty. She took an oath.
Would she violate it for the sake of her career? How would you answer that question?