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Interviewing Tips

Former Associate Director of Admissions Paul Killebrew '67 and former Assistant Director of Admissions Shelley Arakawa '96 led a workshop for interviewers as part of the September 11-12, 1998 "Leadership Weekend" in Hanover. Four mock interview skits were interspersed with a set of guidelines and a list of "Do's and Don'ts". What follows is a summary of the workshop.

  1. Interviews are recommended but not required; they have never been required for the simple reason that we cannot offer interviews to all applicants; we offer interviews to about 70% and interview around 60%. The other 30-40% cannot be penalized because we don't have alums in their area or if alums fail to connect with them for interviews. Do: Attempt to interview everyone you are assigned by encouraging the student to interview. Don't: Demand that a student interview or be unreasonable in demanding a certain time or place. These students are busy (like you) and may not be able to arrange a time to meet with you.
  2. Ideally, interviews should be 50% informational and 50% evaluative. The 50/50 mix will vary depending on how the interview goes. If you decide in the first 10 minutes that you have a superstar in front of you, flip to the marketing side: tell him or her about programs, majors, opportunities abroad, etc. Do: Sell Dartmouth. Don't: Be obnoxious about it, dominate the conversation, etc.
  3. Put students at ease by finding their "Comfort Zone" early in the interview. Help them to relax and feel good about themselves by talking about their strengths or passions first and then ask the tough questions later. Every interview should be a positive experience for the student. They should leave the interview feeling good about themselves, having been listened to, given the chance to talk about their strengths and supported in their goals. Do: Put students at ease; they should leave feeling good about themselves. Don't: Let the interview become grilling, judgmental, unpleasant, or awkward.
  4. You are not the admissions committee and should not offer your opinion on the student's chances of admission. Students will ascribe to you powers that you don't have; don't abuse that trust. Do: Strongly encourage students that impress you to pursue their interest in Dartmouth. Don't: Tell them that they are shoe-ins or long-shots or anything in between. Even if students ask for your opinion as to what their chances are, answer obliquely if at all. It is OK to compliment students in all sorts of ways, just don't connect your statements to admission to Dartmouth.
  5. You will interview a lot of candidates that appear weak to you, but we still want those candidates to leave the interview feeling good about themselves and good about Dartmouth. Maybe critical information didn't come out in the interview that will make the student an acceptable applicant (maybe he throws the shot put 60' but you never asked) or maybe this applicant has a superstar sister or neighbor or cousin's friend's neighbor's sister. The point is that we want to spread good feelings about Dartmouth, and even a weak applicant may have the chance to spread the word.
  6. For the student that is eventually admitted, the interview represents the first step in your helping us land him/her on campus. It is the second step that is so important and so often missing, and that is a call or note or both from the interviewer to the accepted candidate saying, "Congratulations! Go Visit! Do you have any questions? Do you need any information? Can I help you connect with a Dartmouth student or professor or coach or leader of some activity?" This works best if you had a positive connection with the student at the time of the interview. If they were scared to death of you at the time of the interview, the follow-up call won't have the same impact.
  7. Summary of Do's and Don'ts:


  • ... be intimidating, judgmental, dominating or sexist
  • ... tell war stories, give dated information or criticize other colleges


  • ... use common sense and good judgment
  • ... make the interview a positive and helpful experience
  • ... focus on marketing at least as much as judging
  • ... follow-up with accepted students
  • ... take pride in serving the College

Last Updated: 8/5/08