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It seems like a lot of people who end up getting dinged, have had what they consider to be good interviews. I wonder how often a good candidate is dinged because the interviewer is actually a bad interviewer or a bad judge of character.
I would feel much better if I was interviewed by three people at once (which I have experienced with job interviews in the past). I feel like this would take a lot of the subjectivity out of the interview.
I have been on the other side of the table as well, where me and two colleagues interviewed job applicants, and afterwards it was great to do a debrief with my colleagues and discuss our different impressions, there were things that not all of us picked up on, that maybe one of us picked up on, and after the three of us discussed our various impressions, I think we all felt that we had a better formed opinion of the person.
Another reason I think a group-interview would be better, is that with three people directing the interview, it is easier for the applicant to gauge the level of formality.
I think a one-on-one can be too subjective unless the interviewer is VERY experienced with interviews. In other words, I don't like the idea of student or alumni interviews. The one student interview that I've had so far, I felt like the interviewer was really nervous, so afterwards I assumed that I had just given a good interview, but who knows what was racing through this kid's mind as he stuttered and stammered asking me questions.
Of course I guess it can work both ways, maybe I could give a terrible interview, but still impress someone who's too nervous or inexperienced to realize how bad I am.
I was thinking about interview impact as well. I agree that it depends on both the interviewer and interviewee, and that the outcome can be unpredictable. I also think that interviews have different levels of impact depending on the school. I have some examples from personal experience.
My Columbia interview was outstanding, no doubt about it. I really connected with the interviewer, and we had a great meeting over dinner that lasted almost 2 hours. The problem was that as an alum, he's not a decision maker in the process. He assured me that he would write an extremely positive review, but then told of how he interviewed 2 students the year before, and the guy he rated very highly was dinged, while the girl he gave an average review of was ultimately admitted off the WL. Clearly with Columbia, the interview is not make or break. My result was a WL.
I had a really great time interviewing with Darden as well. The difference in this case was that I interviewed with an Adcom. Darden's policy is that the Adcom that conducts the interview does not take part in the admissions voting for that candidate, but even so I definitely felt like I was speaking with someone who's opinion played a big role in the final decision. Even though she didn't vote for the final decision, a positive review probably carries a lot of influence with colleagues that she works closely with every day. My result was an admit.
I also had 2 very nondescript interviews with UCLA and Duke. I interviewed with a 2nd year student on campus at UCLA. I'm absolutely sure that he asked me the exact same questions as the person before and after. He had about 6 interviews scheduled for that day, each was exactly 1/2 hour, and I'd bet money that none had any significant impact on the final decision, unless a candidate really screwed something up. The interview was just totally generic and not memorable, probably for everyone that mills through the process. Don't have a decision yet.
The Duke interview was also generic. I interviewed with a recent alum in the Bay Area, and the school provided a list of questions that they wanted asked. This made for a very disjointed interview because some of the questions covered the exact same topics that had just been answered in the interview. Again, I find out hard to believe that much of an impact could have been made either way. The interviewer was too busy writing and taking notes to get very involved in the conversation. My result was an admit, but I'm sure the interview was a non-factor.
For both UCLA and Duke, these were not decision-makers and I the interview tools they had were very basic. Just not much of a chance to do much in those circumstances. I understand that some people interview with Adcoms at UCLA & Duke on campus - if you want to help yourself then that would probably be a good idea. If you want to play it safe, then a student/recent alum interview would probably be the most neutral.
That's actually a really good point, for a lot of schools the interview is not a make-or-break so it's probably not worth devoting more resources to make their interviews better. I guess the schools that use students and alumnis are more likely to be the schools that don't use interviews as make-or-break.
It's not surprising. The whole process is very subjective and unpredictable and I think that is what is so frustrating to everyone. Things that I think are very important might not carry any weight to the Admissions Committee when they are reviewing my application.
Just as there are bad interviewers, I'm sure that there are also bad essay graders/critiquers on Admissions Committees.
Well I have been interviewing candidates for a job with my division recently and I have interviewed people on other locations a couple of years back. The interviews were 1 on 1 and another colleague also interviewed the same people 1 on 1 on some occasions. My conclusions from these interviews (plus chats with some senior managers, mentors) are the following:
1) You could be discussing the weather forecast for 10 minutes and the interviewer will still have a pretty accurate perception of type/attitude/fit, etc. just by noting your tone, body language, ways of reasoning, articulating, etc.
2) 1 on 1 interviews yield very similar results from different interviewers. Of all 10+ candidates we interviewed recently, my colleague and I agreed pretty much on everything we had to say about them.
3) A few outliers could sneak past the interview stage hiding their true persona. But I've met only such person in a group of 50+ colleagues in the past year and he was duly transferred to another position due to lack of "fit".
4) Inexperienced interviewers (like students) will probably have a more positive impression of the interviewees. They have not been around long enough to see average interviewers become sub-par employees or students, so they tend to give the benefit of the doubt to interviewees. Plus the usually have not had the chance to interview many "true stars" so they could perceive your interview as being better than it really was.
5) The perception one may have of how his interview went may be somehow inaccurate. We've read here about several people feeling bummed about not connecting with interviewers and then being admitted and we've heard otherwise. Interviewers can play tough to see how you react of play nice to take you to a confort zone in which you share too much and make a "CLS" (career-limitating statement). The interview is sometimes a make or break situation, but usually considered as a whole with the app. I think it's more a tool the adcoms use to gauge whether you really are who they think you are from reading the rest of app., rather than an isolated test with a pass or fail score.
So that's my perception of interviewing, in case you are interested.