How schools and colleges can prepare students for virtual university interviews
University interviews may seem daunting to some – and during this challenging Covid-19 period, you may find students are feeling particularly anxious about their upcoming university interviews. This of course, is perfectly understandable given the current circumstances; not only because we are living in an unusually stressful climate, but also because the interview format has changed from face-to-face to video calling. The question is, how do we, as institutions, reassure students and how is best to prepare them for virtual interviews?
Encourage students to be prepared
Students should make sure they’re on time and have prepared their set up; this may mean downloading the appropriate software, checking their webcam and microphone work or even making sure they have a safe space in which to conduct the interview from.
As universities, we can help with this by making sure the delivery is clear in how and when we plan to undertake the interview and establishing effective communication with our applicants, so they are aware of what is expected of them and that they are comfortable with the format.
Encourage students to be themselves
As higher education institutions, we know a huge part of student recruitment involves assessing prospective students’ personalities and whether we think they are the right fit for the course they’ve applied for. During interviews, we often find applicants trying to be someone they’re not – and it’s important to emphasise to students to be themselves; to be as relaxed and as honest as they can, even if they are at home and in more unusual environment than they were expecting. Students and university interviewers must also be conscious of delays in video calls – leave appropriate pauses between asking and answering questions and where possible to avoid interruptions (we know how awkward these can be).
Encourage students to be professional
It’s also important for universities to stress to students that although this isn’t a face-to-face interview, we still expect them to dress and act professionally as if we were meeting in person. They should dress as they would for a normal interview; communicate clearly and professionally and prepare answers in advance. Occasional noisy interruptions are to be expected; students and university staff will be aware there may be unexpected disturbances during their video call, so don’t worry if this does occur (on either end).
We appreciate this is a highly stressful situation and having to conduct interviews from home environments may not be ideal – for students and university staff. Since our own university moved to online interviews, we’ve had some really positive feedback both from academic staff and from the applicants themselves. Everybody is new to the whole process and we’re all in the same boat; if this whole situation has taught us anything, it’s that we can adapt. And adapting is what we are all doing.