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Make the most of your online interview

As a core element of the Daniels College of Business application process, the personal interview illuminates dimensions of a candidate that a GPA, test scores and resume don’t typically reveal.

Somewhat counterintuitively, when conducted online, as all interviews are being handled amid the COVID-19 outbreak, the process can be even more insightful.

Consider the applicant who logged on for her interview from a bedroom where underwear had been hung up to dry behind her. While the scene certainly provided a glimpse into the applicant’s personal style, it may not have been helpful for her master’s program application.

“When an interview is online, we are privy to whatever space you’re in,” said Samantha Nesper, director of graduate admissions for Daniels. “So you must be very aware that you’re not just presenting your appearance, but everything in the frame.”

Tips for video success

To avoid presenting yourself in a way that could, frankly, dampen your chances of acceptance, Nesper offered the following suggestions for an effective virtual interview.

Professionalism, professionalism, professionalism. As with any face-to-face interaction, first impressions stem from your appearance, so ensure that you’re clean, well-groomed and professionally attired. Do a dry run with your device to note what’s in the frame around you and check that the camera angle is ideal.

Focus on the conversation, not the medium. Once you’ve conducted your tech run-through, turn off any self-view capability to avoid distraction from the camera, where your interviewer is. Then, confirm that your internet connection is adequate and develop a contingency plan for any tech glitches, which are always a possibility.

Authenticity rules the day. Don’t let the video dynamics dull your personality. “Do your best to be yourself—if, when speaking to someone, you use a lot of hand gestures, then use hand gestures,” Nesper said. “Being yourself will make a much better impression than being robotic by trying to do what you believe you should do.”

Samantha Nesper

Samantha Nesper

Roll with the unknown. Online interviewers know that life happens: A child or energetic pet tromps into the room and needs a polite dismissal or a household calamity breaks out just outside of view. “It’s part and parcel of living life online, so there’s going to be grace for that,” Nesper said. “But please acknowledge it and own it as you handle it.”

Preparation and practice. Not memorization. Strip away the logistics and a successful interview still boils down your self-assured presence. That means knowing your narrative, anticipating a wide variety of questions and directly addressing shortcomings—most importantly, any low academic metrics, employment gaps or subpar test scores.

“You will be evaluated for how you represent yourself, so make sure you prepare—not so responses feel canned or generic, but so you’re ready to address anything,” Nesper said. “Above all else, be genuine. The worst thing is for a candidate to tell us what they think we want to hear.”

Ultimately, it’s a conversation

Although Daniels doesn’t penalize any candidate for interviewing online, the in-person approach will likely return at some point for those with easy access to the Denver campus.

Until then, tackle the virtual version by preparing well and taking a deep breath as you connect.

“It tugs at my heartstrings when an applicant is clearly terrified,” Nesper said. “An applicant should know that this ought to be one of the least frightening interviews they will ever have. This is not a criminal interrogation, it’s an open conversation. We are rooting for them to do well.”