No matter how much data and information you’ve amassed about a prospective student through their transcripts, application, essays, and other materials, it’s no substitute for genuine face-to-face interaction. And that’s why admissions interviews are so important.
Throughout the pandemic, many private schools shifted to a virtual admissions process, which allowed them to continue connecting with prospective families and meeting enrollment goals. As you might have experienced, it also challenged teams to think outside the box and be more intentional in all communication efforts.
But even as campuses are re-opening for events and in-person learning, it’s likely virtual admissions interviews are here to stay — at least some of the time. Do you have a prospective family moving in from out of state? What about families that live abroad that are considering your boarding school? These are all great examples of when you may still need to take your admission interview online.
To help you fine-tune your process and get more from your virtual interviews, we’re sharing five tried-and-true tips:
1. Put Your Candidates at Ease
It’s not unusual for prospective students (and their families) to begin virtual admissions interviews feeling slightly nervous. After all, by this point in the process, parents are highly interested in your school and want to make as great an impression as you do. Additionally, like many adults, children can feel uncomfortable when put on the spot.
When you host interviews in person, you can easily convey warmth with body language, handshakes, and a little light small talk as everyone gets settled. But, in a virtual setting, you have to be more intentional about setting the tone.
To help improve the experience, start the interview by working to assuage any nerves. Use an age-appropriate ice-breaker, or ask about something in the background of their video — like a pet or piece of sports memorabilia. Starting the conversation with something lighthearted can help everyone relax and open up.
2. Effectively Communicate Your School’s Value
When admissions interviews are conducted on campus, it’s easy to highlight your institution’s value — especially if you pair the interview with a campus tour where prospective students and their families can experience your school themselves. But when so much of the admissions process happens virtually, it’s crucial you consciously infuse your school’s value proposition into every action.
Work together with other team members to identify how you can underscore your value during virtual admissions interviews. For example, if part of your school’s value proposition is that you teach students to be of service to others, you might highlight student-organized volunteer work and community efforts. A school that observes the Montessori method might cover some of the hands-on tasks students engage in and why they’re beneficial to development.
Consider basing some of your questions on your value proposition to learn how well prospective families will complement and fit within your school’s culture.
3. Choose an Appropriate Location
Whether you’re in your office or conducting virtual admissions interviews from home, it’s critical you make sure your space is quiet, low-traffic, and has plenty of light. Choose a place where you’ll be free from distractions and interruptions, and make sure anything in view of your camera is clean, tidy, and well-organized. If you’re handling interviews from home, it’s a good idea to set up a professional-looking background, such as a bookshelf with various school spirit decor. If your work from home situation doesn't lend itself to a professional-looking background, use a Zoom background.
4. Test Your Technology
From unreliable internet speeds to audio feedback, failing microphones, and poor image quality, there’s no shortage of tech issues in virtual experiences. Unfortunately, these problems can eat up a significant amount of time and leave a poor impression on prospective families.
To mitigate the chances of a technical difficulty thwarting your opportunity to engage with a prospective student, be sure to test all tech ahead of time. Check your internet connection, verify your audio and visual are working correctly, and make sure any wireless devices (like BlueTooth microphones or headphones) are fully charged.
Additionally, send a simple tech checklist to your interviewee so they can catch any potential issues on their end too.
5. Create and Follow An Agenda
Anyone who has ever participated in a Zoom meeting can attest to how quickly tangents and disruptions can derail a conversation — and the same holds true for virtual admissions interviews. That’s because video calls are inherently more casual and easily interrupted than in-person meetings.
But while you can’t always control technical difficulties, attendee tardiness, or your neighbor’s landscaping crew, you can create a formal structure and flow to help keep the interview on track. If your interview is thirty minutes, you might set aside five minutes for introductions, twenty minutes for questions, and five minutes to discuss the next steps. It’s also helpful to develop strategies to steer the conversation on to the next question if a prospective student or parent rambles or veers off-topic.
Interviews are essential to thoroughly understanding a student and determining whether they’ll be a good fit for your school. They’re also useful for communicating all the benefits a student will gain by attending your institution. By using these five tips, you can quickly boost the effectiveness of your virtual admissions interviews and ensure they’re a positive experience for everyone involved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
James is a baseball fan, music lover and Director of Sales, in that order. However, he does bring over a decade of experience in the edtech industry building relationships with marcom directors, enrollment managers, business officers and IT directors nationwide. In the last nine years, he's worked with a variety of admissions offices, ranging from 10+ admissions teams to the one-person show, discussing best practices around the private school enrollment experience.