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The Art of Interviewing

by Anne Behnke, Director of Admission

Perhaps the most crucial element of the interview process is the importance of making our families feel comfortable and safe; our positive and benevolent behavior and our reactions can often dictate theirs. I have been interviewing students and parents since I first began in Admission some 29 years ago; interviewing is so fun and so interesting, but it can also be intimidating for the first time interviewer or interviewee. One really cannot predict how any meeting will precisely unfurl when a student or his or her parent or parents sits in one of our offices. Our students and parents who visit St. Mark’s comprise the public, private, charter, and home-schooled families. Many are fully aware of St. Mark’s, and many are hungry to be educated about our great school.

Over the years I have interviewed hundreds of families, and every interview is multi-faceted and unique. These experiences, however, have led me to these most essential elements and core values of the art of interviewing for our Admission team.

When Interviewing Students:

*Begin the ‘interview’ with a warm welcome as soon as the family arrives at the door

*Help students relax and provide an environment in which they feel safe

*Let students know if you will require a writing sample

*Ask students if they are comfortable with you taking notes

*Be a good listener

*Only speak about St. Mark’s and avoid disparaging any other school

*Allow the students to tell you about themselves

*Interview the student and parents separately as you need to get both perspectives

*Ask questions that elicit explanation rather than “yes” and “no” responses

*Help them imagine themselves at St. Mark’s

*Aim to connect them with faculty or coaches while they are there

When Interviewing Parents:

*Set the positive tone for the interview

*Ask questions about their child’s learning style

*Know and communicate what makes a student successful at St. Mark’s

*Be clear about what we offer

*Know all aspects of St. Mark’s and know your facts

*When in doubt, ask! Never make up an answer

*Be open to change, as adaptation and innovation can serve both you and the Admission profession well.

Interviewing prospective families and students is an ever-changing, dynamic, and integral part of our role in Admission.  Meeting new people and introducing them to our close-knit community are always positive experiences.  They learn about St. Mark’s and what we have to offer, and we, in turn, learn more about them and what they can share with us.  It is just one of the may steps involved in creating each new class of proud, intelligent, and driven St. Markers, and it is definitely what keeps me so drawn to this profession.

Anne Behnke is the Director of Admission.  She holds a B.A. from Spring Hill College and a M.A.Ed. from Washington University.  She is the head coach of Varsity Girls’ Tennis, and she lives on campus with her two Cocker Spaniels.

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