Tonight I had a group interview as the final step in the application process for one of my three grad school applications.
I have never had a group interview. I’ve actually never had an interview of an academic nature.
If you habitually read this blog and/or know me in person it should go without saying that I was nervous.
I was worried about everything from the interview itself, to finding a parking spot, to what I wore.
The outfit actually gave me far more anxiety than was necessary. In the end with the help of super-star shopper bff Val I bought light tan “linen” (they were actually polyester shhhh) editor pants, a red high-necked tank top with a navy cardigan. I finished it off with my black pumps. I reasoned they were simple enough to look understated but would bring the formality of the outfit up if need be. I also try to wear heels to important events because it forces me to have good posture, pro tip!
I ended up finding parking fairly easily and then had about 1.5 hours to kill. Who’s surprised?! I took this time to go to a nearby deli and eat a fruit cup while obsessively checking my email every five minutes to double check that the interview was in fact at 6:30 and not 6. This of course only killed 45 minutes so I spent the rest of my time wandering Anthropologie and lamenting the fact that I loved everything and yet could
(financially responsibly) buy nothing.
But let’s get down to the actual group interview. I had thought a group interview would focus on how the candidates interacted with each other or something. In my experience tonight the purpose was more to kill 6 birds with one stone. The interview was run by a member of the faculty who is also a full time professor, and probably wouldn’t have been able to fit 6 individual interviews in her schedule. Essentially it is a time saver.
A group interview was nice in the sense that I didn’t have to deal with any extra awkward silences that might occur during a typical one on one interview. I also generally had time to formulate the best possible response to a question as people were answering before me. On the other hand the damn thing took 2 hours and allowed me to size up/compare myself to my competition directly over the entire 2 hours.
There were six candidates including myself and only one interviewer which was a little overwhelming. Out of the six only two other candidates were applying for my program which made me feel a little bit better. We were all women so there was a lot of cackling and commiserating as we waited for the interviewer to arrive. We did that “sisterhood” thing where everyone is super polite and acts interested in everyone else. We all laughed (probably a little too hard and nervously) while having a conversation about parking. The idea of meters and tickets and other Cambridge parking woes suddenly became the MOST HILARIOUS TOPIC EVER!
When the interviewer finally blew in a full 15 minutes late don’tevengetmestarted she sat down with a flourish and announced she hadn’t looked at our files. Not even cracked them open. She wasn’t apologetic and thought this was funny.
I almost instantly wanted to puke.
WHAT YOU MEAN YOU NO READ APPLICATION?
WHAT YOU MEAN YOU NO LOOK AT LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION?!!?
WHY YOU NO RESPECT I SPENT 2 MONTHS ON DAMN PERSONAL ESSAY.
I managed to keep a smile on my face and thankfully everything went uphill from there.
I won’t reenact the entire interview for you but I shall document here the different characters who participated!
1. Pixie Girl: Pixie girl was small and waifish and had a pixie cut. She was from rural Maine and has had a bachelor’s degree since 2009. She was pursuing the program as a complete career change. She seemed very relaxed which could also have been attributed to the fact that she was wearing a jersey shirt one might buy at TJ Maxx for 16.99 and some casual pants.
2. Elle Woods: Elle was from Colorado and was so impossibly fresh-faced it made me want to die. She was a little over dressed in a pants-suit complete with pearl earrings. She had a cool leather portfolio (that she absolutely didn’t need) and I did envy that. She looked so polished and professional even though she was still finishing her bachelor’s degree. She told a story of how she worked for a daycare center specializing in helping single mothers who are HIV positive. I sort of hated her.
3. Ethnic Name Dropper: END was another career changer whose older sister was already in the program she was applying to. She of course mentioned this right off the bat and the interviewer was obviously pleased by this and proceeded to have a conversation with END about her sister who was one of her students. END was from the Dominican Republic which meant she shared a first language with our interviewer. Girl was practically a hat trick when it came to relating to our interviewer. She was, however a bit of an “over-sharer” for an interview setting. I won’t put the specifics but I think for a first meeting in a roomful of strangers its probably best not to advertise the fact that you’re in therapy.
4. Old Enough To Be Our Mother: OETBOM was a middle aged massage therapist from Cape Cod who wanted to further her education in an effort to start her own private practice. She was very nice and obviously a little insecure that she was clearly the oldest person in the room other than our interviewer. She was wearing a see-through macrame sweater, and a huge chunky charm necklace. I felt a bit bad for her. I felt worse when, while answering a question about her exposure to diversity she uttered the words, “I don’t even see race.” and “My neighbors growing up were the only black family in my neighborhood, I didn’t even know they were black. I just thought they had a tan.” I wanted so badly to jump across the octagonal conference table in my silly dress pants and heels and clamp my hand around her well-meaning but wholly ignorant sounding mouth. “PLEASE STOP DIGGING YOURSELF THAT HOLE!” I tried to message her through virtual brainwaves instead. She put the final nail in the coffin by saying she was “scared of urban youth.” I said a eulogy for her in my mind and moved on.
5. Mild-Mannered Midwest Maggie: MMMM was not actually named Maggie but very could have been, you know? She was very quiet and shy and I’m a little ashamed to say this worked in my favor. In large groups of potentially charismatic people I tend to hang back a little bit or get shy and soft-spoken which is not so good for an interview setting. Before the interview began I took in how quiet she was and like Ursula sucking the voice from Ariel into her magical demon shell necklace I took strength and solace in the fact that I wasn’t the shiest person in the room. She instantly made me more extroverted and confident. Thanks MMMM!
All in all I feel pretty positive about how it went, I don’t feel 100% confident and of course there are certain moments I wish I could go back and re-do. Most of all I found myself thoroughly excited as the interviewer explained the program, it was the confirmation and reminder I needed that I have indeed found myself the perfect career path :).
Mostly, I’m just glad its all over!