Music college interviews, for many, are nightmare fuel.
Why is that?
It really comes down to one thing: interviewing is necessary for the majority of music students to gain admission into their top choice schools.
When you do interview, you have to master the subtle art of boasting your credentials while not coming across as unnecessarily arrogant.
You have to telegraph to a school your interest without coming across as desperate.
You need to sound confident – while at the same time, ensure your body language does not contradict your intent.
At some of the top music schools in the country, the interview is a requirement for every student applying for the program – the Berklee College of Music, for example, is one of those schools.
It is true that some students may not have to do an interview for every school and program. That being said, if I have a student apply for 10 programs, it is rare they will not encounter at least three in-person interviews.
Also, nearly every student encounters informal interviews in open houses, with alumni representatives of music schools, with admissions after a college tour, and even in the first few minutes of an audition with faculty in the program. These types of interviews can be incredibly important to showing off to a school a first impression of who you are as a musician.
So how can you master the nightmare-injection that is the interview? I am not saying accomplishing this task is easy, but it is something that anyone can do.
It starts by understanding one core truth about the interview…
Interviewers Are People, and Thus They Are Always Evaluating These Two Important Things
When you are talking to someone in any setting, whether it is an interview or not, you may not consciously realize it, but you are always taking information in from that person in one of two ways.
First, you are listening to the content of what they are saying. When someone speaks to you, if you are going to react appropriately or stay within the thread of a conversation, you are always listening to what they say. This is more or less straightforward.
The first truth, then, is content of answers & dialogue.
The second truth is less straightforward, and is particularly difficult to accomplish for young musicians applying to college; having a keen awareness of your body language.
You may be Shakespearean in the content of your answers, but if you never look your interview in the eyes while speaking, you are, for example, showing to that interviewer incredible insecurity within yourself.
Remember, music schools are quite competitive; often times, students who are the most secure with themselves gain the biggest advantage in the interviews & thus admissions.
Let’s break down these two truths further and really examine how you can improve your ability in both of these areas – content of answer as well as body language.
Interview Body Language – The Don’ts
The following are the most common body language errors I see in the several hundred simulated admissions interviews I have held for my clients in the past two years.
Poor Eye Contact: As aforementioned, eye contact is incredibly important when interviewing. It is also difficult to master.
One tip for eye contact is holding it around 75% of the time, especially while listening to someone speak. Why this number?
If you hold eye contact for 100% of the time, you are staring and that makes people feel uncomfortable.
If you hold eye contact half the time or less, it tells the interviewer you are not paying attention to them, no matter how good the content of your answer is.
Between 70% and 80% of the time is a healthy amount of time for looking someone in the eyes.
Looking in Inappropriate Places: Similar to what we discussed about eye contact, looking at an inappropriate place is disrespectful to interviewers.
This can include looking:
- Out of a window during an interview.
- At your phone – don’t even have your phone with you in an interview.
- Your watch.
- At someone who is not a part of the interview.
Crossing Your Body Too Much: This is an interesting one – never, ever cross your body language in an interview.
What do I mean by this?
Try the following gesture just for learning purposes:
Cross your arms and put your hands at your sides, below your armpits.
I guarantee you have done this before in your life – in fact, you may do it every day.
Never cross your body in an interview!
This body language tells an interviewer one of three things:
- You are distancing yourself from another person and putting a barrier between you both.
- You are overly-proud / haughty and perhaps do not care about what the other person is saying.
- You are cold and wish it were warmer in the room.
Fidgeting: This one is difficult for some, but must be kept to a minimum in an actual interview when applying to music school.
Fidgeting includes legs, hands, arms, and really any part of the body.
Playing with Jewelry or Your Hair: Never play with rings, watches, necklaces, hairpins, chains, and associated items. Never perform distracting movements with your hair.
Swiveling in a chair: While unlikely you will be placed in a comfortable chair in which you can swivel, if you do, resist the temptation.
Interview Body Language – The Do’s
The following are positive things you can do with your body language in an interview:
Maintaining Strong Eye Contact: As we mentioned before, about 70% – 80% of the time is good and strong.
Open Body Language: The very simple act of not crossing your body language and keeping your body open lends itself to a more inviting interview when speaking to college faculty or admissions.
Posture: Keep away from lazy slump in your posture – sitting up straight shows you are in control of your body language and that you are confident in yourself.
Knock on a closed door: If you have to enter an interviewing room on your own volition, be sure to knock if the door is closed.
Start with a smile: It sounds cheesy but it is completely true – starting the interview at a music school with a smile makes the interview much more pleasant from the get-go.
Remember, interviewers are people, and people are naturally intelligent beings. We make first impressions within seconds of seeing, meeting, speaking to someone. Something like a smile gets the interview started on a positive note.
Of course, don’t hold a forced smile throughout the whole interview – that is just strange. You can go back to “normal” facial expressions after the introductory smile. A smile to leave the room too at the conclusion of the interview is a good idea as well.
On the next page, we tell you the three questions you MUST always be prepared for in any interview