Interview prepInterview 2

Upperclassmen Step Up to Help Sophomores Applying to the Neeley School

Juniors and seniors from Neeley’s premier programs volunteered to coach incoming students through the interview process, and the results were “awesome.”

March 17,  2014

By Elaine Cole

What do you do when you don’t have enough volunteers from the community to prep new sophomores for the high-pressure interviews required to get into the Neeley School?

You call on the ones who know exactly what to do and how to do it, because they’ve done it successfully themselves.

Juniors and seniors from the prestigious Neeley Fellows and BNSF Next Generation Leadership programs stepped up to the task to help TCU hopefuls brush up on their interview skills in preparation for Interview Day, when business professionals come to campus on a Saturday to interview applicants for the Neeley School.

The Professional Development Center offers mock interviews to all students who apply to the Neeley School, but finding enough volunteers from the business community to participate was presenting a challenge as student numbers increased.

“Retaining outside volunteers for mock interviews during a weekday is challenging, and the number of student applicants is growing, so we created a new model,” said Kelly O’Brien, director of Neeley’s Professional Development Center. “We had enough upperclassmen volunteer that we were able to give every student candidate who wanted a mock interview a chance to participate.”

O’Brien and Jessica Cates, director of the Alcon Career Center at Neeley, held a training session for the upperclassmen to cover the basics of how to be an effective interviewer.

“Conducting an interview is more of an art/skill than it gets credit for,” said senior William Dace, a Neeley Fellow. “You have to be very attentive and act as a conductor for a conversation that can go so many different directions while still trying to give a fairly standardized interview.”

“I felt like the students were able to ask us more candid questions because they knew that they would get honest answers from us, since we were in their shoes just one or two years ago,” senior Alyssa Gross, a member of the BNSF Next Gen program, said.

Dace agreed. “They could ask us questions they might not necessarily want to ask older professionals. I got asked an array of things, from ‘What should I except from the interview?’ to “If I’m considering changing my major at Neeley how can I do that?’ One person told me about a phone interview he had the next day, and we talked for 10 minutes or so about how to handle the call. I wish I could have picked the brain of a junior or senior when I was entering Neeley.”

Ken Nhan, a junior in the Next Gen program, said the opportunity to be the interviewer was a unique experience. “Being on the other side of the table gave me so much insight and broadened my perspective. When students couldn’t articulate their stories or get their points across well, they reminded me of myself a year ago. I felt really motivated to give them feedback so they could improve.”

In addition to empathy, understanding and inside knowledge of the Neeley School, the student interviewers were more forthcoming in their assessments.

“The feedback that the juniors/seniors provided to the interviewees – both written and verbal – was far more extensive than what the business professionals felt comfortable providing in years past,” Cates said. “Since feedback is so critical to improvement, this was the most valuable part of doing the mock interviews this way.” 

As for the interviewees, they thought the experience was “awesome,” as Johnny Zhang put it.

Sophomore Chris Curran said his interviewer “gave me very relevant advice, not only for applying to Neeley, but also for the business world.”

“She did a great job explaining how I could improve, but she also recognized what I was doing well,” Alexandra Bianchin said of her interviewer.

“Excellent interviewer; probing questions forced me to think,” Scott Martinson said.

“I’m very happy that Neeley offers these opportunities to students to help them know what to expect and learn how to really be a great interviewee,” Meagan Lee said.