Interview Tips

Discussion in 'Military Academy - USMA' started by scoutpilot, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    The other night I conducted another round of interviews, and it occurred to me that I might give a few tips to our young friends on here, since it is the season for question/answer sitdowns...

    1. Dress nicely. Like it or not, the interviewer will take note. You need not wear a tie, but a young man should know that a collared shirt speaks volumes. Young ladies, well...perhaps I'm dating myself here...whatever finery you wear, make sure it's pleasantly conservative. Plunging necklines and academy interviews do not mix.

    2. Be early. 5 minutes early is on-time. Don't cut it close and be two minutes late, or even 30 seconds late. Especially if an officer is interviewing you.

    3. We know you're nervous. Relax as much as you can, but don't think that being nervous will turn the interviewer against you in any way. Nerves tell us that you take this seriously.

    4. Firm handshake. That's for young ladies and young men.

    5. Smile. Be happy. As I tell my interviewees, my job is NOT to root out the reasons why Candidate X should not get in. It's to make sure the board has a nice, well-rounded idea of who the person behind the packet is.

    6. Write your questions down. I can't count how many times I tell the candidate he/she can ask me questions about USMA and their nerves make them forget the questions they had in their head. We know you're nervous. Write them down.

    7. Honesty, honesty, honesty. If you want to go to USAFA or USNA really badly, don't tell us USMA is number one. Be honest. It's your life, and we want to help you get to the right place.

    Lastly...the interviewer is there to help. Always. This is a volunteer gig that takes time away from our lives. If we didn't want to help you, we wouldn't be doing it!
     
  2. dpt135

    dpt135 Member

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    Thanks for the advise. It does make me feel better. Gee- whenever I talk to anyone of importance dealing with the SA's I become a blubering idiot I get so nervous. It is nice to be reminded that some nerves are ok and to just be myself.
     
  3. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    Have you ever come across the West Point Candidate Guide? I got it off of Amazon and it actually says the same things you said.

    Anyways thanks for the tip, sir.
     
  4. abeastlybeast

    abeastlybeast USMA Class of 2015

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    Thanks for the tips Scout. I have my first interview Thursday morning :cool:
     
  5. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    Very useful tips from scoutpilot. I would still vote for a coat and tie for the guys, though. JMO

    Ladies, as scoutpilot said, cleavage is a no-no. That's not the kind of attention you want at this point!

    No gum either!

    Don't forget to say "thank you" at the end.
     
  6. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Yes, Dixie, better-dressed is always a plus. I should have written as "collared shirt is a minimum. Tie is not required, but is highly recommended."

    As for the young ladies and the cleavage, well...I guess I'm out of touch with the times. What is considered acceptable for young ladies today makes me blush, and I'm not yet 30 (though it creeps closer every day). Girls didn't dress like that in the late 90s. Looking at facebook pictures of high school friends confirms to me that we dressed like dorks :wink:. Regardless, it's not often that a young lady seeking an appointment would dress provacatively, but...when I presented an appointment last May, a young lady received a ROTC scholarship. She was dressed like someone my age, on her way to a club. Not exactly ideal.

    Young ladies, a good life lesson for professional events: even if ya got it, leave "it" to the imagination.

    I will say that every young man and woman I've interviewed has been an absolute pleasure.
     
  7. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Thanks Scout for the reminders - after doing many interviews in the past couple months, I'd like to add a few comments. I also agree with the level of dress - I've been surprised by how many interviews we've had with a kid in a t-shirt and gym shorts. Yes, we try to look past that, but it kind of immediately begs the question of how important this is to the candidate! Personally I feel a suit in this area would be way overkill for a MALO interview - I'd be happy with a polo and khaki shorts at this point! I do, however, feel it's critical for the nomination interviews.

    Another surprise to me has been the number of candidates that address me by my first name. My husband and I will introduce ourselves as "Bob and Mary Smith" (obviously not really!) and the candidate will then say "Well, Mary, I was wondering..." May be the Old Corps in me but my first thought is "Did I recognize you?!" :shake: These kids are the same age that my kids are and I certainly wouldn't expect their friends to call me by my first name - during a formal academy interview far less so! On the same note, referring to your principal or teachers by their first names doesn't impress me that you're "buddies" - it just shows me a lack of respect.

    I also agree on being truthful on your motives. We've had a couple that I'm absolutely certain would take a different academy (just based on their answers to questions about what they want to do and where they've visited and their thoughts), yet they insist to us that WP is their #1 choice. I think part of what got my oldest son his LOA to Navy last year was telling them up front that he wanted USAFA. Really, it won't work against you. If you're a strong enough candidate, you'll get into more than one academy (at least in this area where nominations aren't as much of an issue). If you tell me what you want and why, I can explain better why WP does or does not make as much sense for you and maybe give you some points you hadn't considered.

    Taking 30 seconds to send a thank you email the evening after the interview makes a strong impression - usually around the time that we're writing up our notes to submit to the Regional Commander. Plus it gives you a chance to ask or tell us anything you forgot during the interview, and to emphasize anything important you want to one last time. Always best to leave the interview on a positive note, and this is an easy way to do it.

    Good luck and as Scout says - we're doing this because we want to. Our interviews have been on the average about 2 hours long - we probably don't have as many candidates as he does, and we've only interviewed serious potential candidates, but want to spend as much time as necessary to answer questions, share stories and get to know the candidate, and prepare them for what exactly they will be facing. The majority of our candidates have never been to WP and many have no military experience/family/knowledge at all. It is a lot of fun for us though just to meet so many great candidates and their families as a part of this process!
     
  8. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    Great point you highlighted there, marciemi. I am saddened by how many candidates have not visited WP, and when I ask about their plans to visit they say "I probably won't have time, so I doubt I will."

    Candidates, IMHO, you NEED TO SEE WP AND CADET LIFE. Otherwise, you are walking in blind. It's by no means impossible to thrive there without seeing it first, but seeing it first gives you the WHOLE story.
     
  9. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    My HUGE pet peeve too, marciemi! However, I'm old and grouchy and just sum it up to bad manners and poor instruction from their parents. I was taught not to address my "elders" by their first name and I continued the tradition with my sons. It's just rude! Now, I'm a Southerner and some people here use "Miss" plus your first name and that irritates me just as much. If a kid my boys' ages calls me by my first name I usually say (in a friendly manner), "My friends who are your age usually call me Mrs. XXX." Candidates, be smart and use proper titles!

    It is so easy to visit West Point! (I do realize that travel logistics may make it NOT so easy for everyone to visit.) Everyone was so welcoming to my son in the 3 times he visited and each time he came away from the visit having learned something new and amazing. I still remember that the first time we visited, he said West Point made his heart beat fast and he knew it was truly the place for him. My son was asked in all of his interviews if he had visited West Point.
     
  10. WAMom68

    WAMom68 Founding Member

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    Sorry to butt in but I do have to comment regarding visiting West Point. For those of us who are far enough away that we have to travel by air it can be a large expense (airfare, rental car, hotel) that not all families can afford. If a candidate cannot afford to go for a visit they should let the interviewer know that it isn’t about not wanting to go for a visit, but about the finances. Hopefully that won’t be held against them.
     
  11. hawk

    hawk ButterBar Dad

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    This is absolutely true, but also harder to do than some might realize. To my knowledge, USMA overnight visits are only offered to appointees or LOA holders. Which for many will be too late for congressional & malo interviews.

    You can do a short admissions briefing & morning in classes without that, but there's not much time with the cadet. Certainly not like you get on the overnight, with meals & hall life.

    In the summer when most can travel it's even more limited if I recall. We ended up paying for the bus tour, which stopped at the parade field & chapel.

    But the overnight visit really opened my son's eyes. He was very impressed with the cadets in the company, and they really went out of their way to introduce him around. Even the company co stopped by for introductions & a chat. As parents, the behind the scenes look and info in the briefing answered many questions. But the biggest thing was that we saw that cadets still were college kids, had fun, laughed & joked, and had a level of commaradie many young adults never see.

    While at the summer programs you see the facility & meet some cadets, it's really nothing like an overnight visit. So if you can, do both! :)

    It was well worth the trip, and we are excited to have similar opportunity for USNA CVW. (And hopefully USAFA when that process starts)
     
  12. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    I wasn't at all saying that we held it against them - more trying to explain why our interviews took so long! I think there's a huge difference between someone who grew up in the NE and has heard about WP, the Army/Navy game, throughout their life and probably visited it at least as a tourist destination than a Midwest or West Coast candidate who has probably found out everything they know about it on their own. The reason it IS probably asked in every interview is not to judge whether they want to go or not, but to find a starting point in our conversation and knowing how much more info to try to give.

    However, I do think at the MOC level, while it wouldn't directly be held against a candidate, having made a visit does give them a little bit of confidence that the candidate knows what they're getting themselves into. So not having visited (at least in this area or probably further west) wouldn't be a negative, but being able to talk to what they saw/experienced/felt on a visit COULD end up being a defniite positive.
     
  13. WAMom68

    WAMom68 Founding Member

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    Which is why I am so grateful our Field Force out here does an excellent job of preparing our candidates for what they are getting into. I've been told Washington has one of the lowest rates for cadets leaving prior to cow commitment.

    I didn't really think you would hold it against them. I just hope other FF reps don't either. :smile:

    My son was in the position of having a nomination but no appointment or LOA when we went to visit. He only got the morning tour with a plebe, no overnight, but it was still worth the money spent to travel there.
     
  14. scoutpilot

    scoutpilot Member

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    I don't hold it against a candidate. BUT, if a candidate tells me he is applying to USMA and USAFA, and then tells me he did the summer program at USAFA, has visited USAFA, doesn't plan to visit USMA, but swears that USMA is his first choice, it raises a flag.

    I think a visit, even a day visit, paints a much better picture for a candidate than most AFF members can.
     
  15. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Exactly what I was saying in my first post. When someone tells me they went to USAFA SS, have always wanted to fly, and plan to major in Aero Engineering, then in the same breath assure me that although they're applying to USAFA, USMA is really their number one choice, I'm left wondering if they're A. Totally trying to BS me or B. Totally clueless on what each academy actually offers! :wink:
     
  16. Dixieland

    Dixieland Member

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    I realize that travel costs are a very real hardship and distances are great for many people, but I don't see how someone could select a college, traditional or service academy, and never go and actually check it out. You are going to spend the next four years there.

    My cadet enjoyed sitting in the classes of his cadet tour guide and eating in the mess hall. It helped him picture himself doing those very things next year. It was extremely helpful for him to be able to ask the cadet questions one-on-one.

    ETA: Our trips to West Point were bare bones--cheap flight (flew the weird hours no one else wanted), lucked up on a good off-season rate at a hotel, and found a cheap rental car by using a coupon from a silly, rip-off coupon book my son's baseball team sold. I think we ate at McDonalds. We visited when DS had a couple of days off because of teacher workdays.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2010
  17. vampsoul

    vampsoul Candidate

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    Just putting this out there- I attended USAFA SS and NASS. I could not attend SLS due to school conflicts. Still, when it came time for the nom process, USMA was my first choice after visiting in a different capacity and (more importantly) deciding that the Army was the right branch for me. Perhaps the person simply just could not find a way to feasibly visit USMA. (also, what do they want to fly? That could be a determining factor).
     
  18. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Again going back to my spending 2 hours talking to each candidate! :thumb: Trust me, we ask those questions and at a recent interview obviously my husband felt the same way because he ended up saying something like "okay, I'm a bit lost here because everything you're telling me seems to indicate you want USAFA, yet you're saying you want WP - why?!" Answering that question the way you did above is a lot different than answering it with an evasive answer or a vague "oh, I just think I want WP more" or similar.
     
  19. bdaMom

    bdaMom Member

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    My son is in the Army Reserves and ROTC as a freshmen in college. He has a 3-Year ROTC scholarship, but after joining the Reserves has decided to try for West Point. He has a congressional interview and I'm wondering if he should dress as a civilian (dress clothes), or should he wear his ACUs or dress uniform?
     
  20. KNP

    KNP Member

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    I definitely vote against ACU's as they are too casual for an interview. Also, I remember my issued ROTC uniform and how poorly it fit. If the ROTC uniform fits poorly and he has a suit or sportcoat which looks nicer, I think that would be appropriate. However, I am not implying that the uniform is wrong to wear.
     

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