Nomination Interview Advice in TWO WORDS!!

Discussion in 'Nominations' started by marciemi, Nov 5, 2011.

  1. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Okay, so I just spent my first day on a Senator's Service Academy Selection Committee and without getting too specific, I'd like to give two strong words of advice to candidates - very simply:

    SELL YOURSELF!!!

    Yes, we had a list of questions to ask, and yes, we skimmed over your accomplishments and class rank and ACT scores and essays before you walked in. We know all that. We can read. But when the committee asks you a question - always be POSITIVE! Had a couple candidates today point out negatives (what they HADN'T done, instead of what they HAD) that I probably wouldn't have noticed had they not brought them to my attention.

    When we ask if you have anything else you'd like to tell us - TELL US SOMETHING! Looking at the ground and saying "Nah" or "I guess not" does nothing to convince me why we should recommend you for the nomination. We've already formed a judgment of you before you walk in the room - this is your chance to convince us we were wrong (if it was negative) or that we were right (if it was positive) and most importantly...to convince us that you really, truly WANT to be at an academy.

    I realize this may be your first "job" interview. However, that's true for the other 100+ candidates you're competing against as well. And if you don't sell yourself...and they do...well, that's the end of it! I just can't believe how many candidates looked surprised at the question asking why they wanted USxA or when we asked why the senator should nominate them. We weren't asking "trip you up" questions - if you don't know why you want USxA, then why are you here? :confused:

    I guess what I'm trying to summarize is that a little bit of enthusiasm or motivation would go a LONG way!

    Good luck to everyone in their interviews!
     
  2. LFry94

    LFry94 USAFA C1C '17

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    I hope people who still have interviews coming up get a chance to read your post before they go to their interview, because you offer some really good advice.

    You mentioned in your post that some of the people you interviewed would sometimes look at the ground while answering your questions. If I could give my own advice, it'd be to make sure to keep good eye contact with the person you're speaking or listening to. I was trying to make small talk with another applicant at my first interview, and he wouldn't even look at me when he talked to me. I felt like he was uncomfortable, uninterested, and second guessing himself.

    I have a question for the OP or another MOC review board member who might be able to give an opinion on this subject matter. I just finished my second interview two days ago, and while I was waiting my turn to be interviewed I held a conversation with an applicant's mother. We started talking about the previous interview that both I and her son had been to, and she told me about a specific interview question that her son had been asked and how he answered it. He was asked "Assuming you were to be appointed to the Military Academy, what would you see yourself doing there?" and she said his response was "Anything, because I can." Well, I got to meet her son before he left the lobby for his interview, and he seemed like a very intelligent person who I think could really have the potential to do anything he wanted at the USMA. That left me just a bit curious about how the interviewers took his answer.

    I guess my question is this: How do you think that answer would go over with you and your review board, and would you consider that answer "selling yourself" well?

    Thank you for your time. I look forward to reading your responses.
     
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2011
  3. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Sorry for a short reply but our Internet is evidently out until they can get someone out here Tuesday night and I can't type on a phone!

    Some advice we had given to us before my sons applied was that if your interviewer/board ever looked at you kind of blankly after you'd answered, that you should then ask "was that answer sufficient or would you like me to expand on it a bit?". Sometimes your answer might just be short or you can just tell they didn't "get" what you were trying to say. I think the members of my panel in the case you mentioned would have simply asked him for more - personally I would have said something like "how about more specifically?".

    Honestly I don't think it's a great answer because this is your time to shine in the interview. Fine to say but then I'd elaborate. Like when we asked a candidate what they believed their most significant EC was and they would simply answer "football". Well yeah, I see you played on your app - how about WHY?!

    More when I can get to a keyboard! ;)
     
  4. LFry94

    LFry94 USAFA C1C '17

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    Thanks for your quick response! I enjoy reading the advice this forum has to offer. I look forward to reading your extended reply when you get your internet back. :rolleyes:

    I do have another question about how the nomination process works on your end, if you don't mind answering it. Once you interview the nominees, do you recommend them to your MOC for him/her to make the final decision, or does the review panel make the final decision for the MOC?
     
  5. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Have to love internet providers! :rolleyes: After spending an hour on the phone this afternoon troubleshooting and them saying it wasn't their fault and someone would have to come out and fix it, we returned from lunch to have everything working and a recorded message from them saying they'd "fixed the outage and we shouldn't need the repair service". Would have been nice if they had acknowledged the outage a few hours ago!

    To answer your most recent question, we (the review panel) definitely don't make the final decision. We rated each candidate in 9 categories and did a total score, and also had spaces to write a lot of comments. My belief is that the 3 staffers who are in charge of the process then compile these sheets from the three weekends of interviews and narrow them down to the recommendations for the MOC himself. Whether they give him 20 names and he narrows it to 10, or they give him 10 and he simply signs off on their recommendations, I have no idea.

    Back a bit to what I was saying earlier - keep your answers positive, concise, but long enough to give a good explanation and/or sell yourself. There's no reason to tell us every single one of your EC's (especially when they're all on the sheet in front of us), but a short story of something you actually did as student council president is a lot more beneficial than a bullet listing.

    One more bit of advice I'd recommend would be to do your homework. We don't expect you to be conversant on every aspect of the branch that you're looking into, but when we ask what you might want to do in the Navy, "I have no idea" comes across like you've never thought about it. On the other hand, an answer like "the Naval Academy offers so many incredible opportunities that I'm not certain which one I'd like to do at this point - I am interested in Subs, Marines and possibly aviation" tells me you know some of what's out there but realize you don't know everything or your feelings may change. Completely different answers.

    Some things NOT to say: "I plan to do my 4 (??) years and then get out". "My dad wants me to apply so I am". "I'm only here because the coach called me and told me to come." "I'm applying to USAFA because I don't like engineering and think it would be easier than USNA." Yes, I heard all of those yesterday. :eek: Also, you don't need to rush into an answer - I always told my kids if you aren't sure on an answer, feel free to take time to think for a minute. But...you should NOT do this on every single question! Especially the ones about you - again, you should know what your EC's are or why you want USxA before you walk through that door. Once and I pass it off as nervousness or taking a question seriously. 3 or 4 times and I think you're not prepared, or serious about attending.

    Finally, on a :thumb: note, dress was not an issue yesterday. Every candidate I interviewed was in a suit/coat for the guys and an appropriate outfit for the females. By that token though, in this area at least, if you weren't in that level of dress, it would have definitely stood out.

    I'll be glad to answer any more general questions, but realize it all may change between areas, and even between panels for the same congressman. We were supposed to get through all the questions on our list, but generally didn't have enough time so used the ones we thought were the most important - other groups probably figured others were more important. We also had the candidates sit down for the interview - I don't if all the groups did (or had a spare chair even in the offices they were in - some were more than a bit tight). Guess it's just the start of getting used to this - two candidates yesterday might have had totally different interview experiences, just like two cadets in different squadrons at USAFA might have totally different Beast experiences.
     
  6. LFry94

    LFry94 USAFA C1C '17

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    Oh no! I can imagine getting an answer like the last one you quoted really raised some eyebrows!

    I've got another question for you. You mentioned that at some times you only had about five minutes to look over an applicant's resume before you gave an interview; I assume that included recommendation letters. I have to wonder then, how much impact did recommendation letters really have on an applicants score?

    Thanks again for your response! I realize you take your job very seriously, but I would think being a review board member would be almost be fun, since you get to meet a lot of potential future cadets/midshipmen.
     
  7. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    In our case, really almost none. At most we skimmed them quickly - about the only ones I remember were one that came from an ALO (which surprised me because the candidate was applying to AF and as a MALO I wouldn't have thought I could write a letter of rec for one of my candidates - the whole conflict of interests thing!) and one that talked about how well the student did in AP Chem - which just stuck out because we'd been commenting on how few of the candidates seemed to have any AP science classes.

    But...remember how we did it may NOT be how your MOC will. I know for our congressman they were sending the panel members copies of the files in advance to look over so they would have the time to really read the letters and essays and weigh them a bit more. We simply didn't.

    And it really was a lot of fun being on the panel - met a lot of great candidates and other panel members as well. I'm looking forward to next weekend! :thumb:
     
  8. Ken2012

    Ken2012 Prospective

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    Thanks for the insight - It's really interesting to see how the interviews are going so far.

    Personally I'm a bit worried that my MOC's schedule their interviews so late now.
     
  9. tripleplay

    tripleplay Member

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    Phone interview

    Any words of wisdom for a canidate who will be interviewing over the phone?My DS is reapplying to USNA and is away at college. He can not get back this Friday for a Senitorial interview, so he is going to do it over the phone. He will be able to get back for his second Senitorial interview and the represenative's interview.
     
  10. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    We did do one phone interview on Saturday and I will say that it was a bit more difficult. You can't really see expressions or read facial cues or tell if people are following along or approving or not of what you're saying. The advice I would give would be to keep his answers short, but explanatory, and not give an entire laundry list of everything because you don't know when to stop (and it was hard to interrupt on the connection). Although it's tempting to have your resume in front of you, remember that the candidates doing it in person can't and answer similarly. We asked our candidate about some of their EC's and they were determined to list every single one before taking a breath. Remember we have all of that in front of us so don't read the resume to us - talk as if it were a conversation. You can always ask as I said above if they'd like you to give more information on a topic.

    It's great that he can get back for 2 of his 3 interviews so I really wouldn't worry too much about this one. If nothing else it will make the others seem easier! Best of luck!
     
  11. BenjaminZ

    BenjaminZ Member

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    My interview will be coming up in the next few weeks. Do you have any advice for candidates who tend to be nervous before interviews? Is it okay to tell the board that you are for example "nervous but only because this interview means so much to me"?
     
  12. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    Don't be nervous. The fact is they know you are nervous, and they know you are young. You don't need to tell them that. They are not going to judge you like you are a 45 yo interviewing for a job. They know that you get the importance and fear/stress/nerves is common. It would be abnormal to walk in with 1000% confidence that you have it in the bag.

    The minute you understand that they get that is the minute your nerves will dissipate.

    I don't know if you compete athletically, but I will say for our kids that did, one thing they would do is take their Ipod with them and listen to it prior to going into the meet.

    It allowed them the ability to decompress, and relax. I don't think we ever spoke while we were driving them to the competitions. We didn't pepper our DS with questions of what might be asked when we took him for his interviews. We allowed him his space. If he wanted to talk, we talked, if he wanted to sleep, he slept. We allowed him whatever he wanted to mentally prepare for it.

    Do whatever you need to do to feel prepared. It varies person to person. You choose, it is your day in the sun.

    Whatever the result is, understand one thing. Rarely does an MOC only have 10 applicants. Rarely do they interview every applicant. That means the people they do interview made it through the 1st cut. You are a candidate that they just want to meet, just like your ALO/BGO/MALO. That interview went well, even though you were probably nervous, right?

    Think of it that way.

    Believe!
     
  13. marciemi

    marciemi USMA Alumnus

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    Agree with Pima that they'll know you're young and nervous. I wouldn't offer the explanation straight out (sounds like you're just making excuses up front), but if you get stuck on a question or stumble a bit, I'd feel free to say that - it will probably relieve the tension some and help you relax.

    That said, if you're that nervous, I'd probably see if you could do some practice interviews - really it can be with anyone who you don't know that well. It's a lot different doing it with a friend or mom & dad, but if they have a coworker or a teacher at your school you don't know well or someone similar, they could just give you some practice. Anyone who'd conducted an interview before can probably come up with appropriate questions - obviously questions such as "Why do you want this job (academy)?" and "Why should we choose you?" aren't exactly novel.

    We knew my oldest son, although he looked good on paper, was not a great public speaker and would try to say the very minimum possible so arranged for him to do around 4 practice interviews in advance, which I think helped his confidence a lot, if not his actual speaking skills (which I can't attest to). Son #2 could sell the Brooklyn Bridge to the committee if he wanted so we never even bothered practicing anything with him at home, let alone with others. Just go with what you think you need.

    That said, there is a difference between nervous and unprepared. If you've practiced your answers (at least the obvious ones) at least some will come automatically and you will start to relax. Do try to give honest answers that tell about YOU, not what you think the committee wants to hear. An answer like "I've wanted West Point since I saw a documentary on it last year" or "since I visited in middle school" or something similar is a lot more helpful (and we can ask you more questions about it if we want) than "because I want to serve my country". In the first case, the follow-up question will be "oh, tell us about the visit" or "What was the documentary about?" In the second, it'll be "So, what does serving your country mean to you?" I'd prefer to answer the first personally! :wink:
     

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