The Interview

Perspective From The Interviewer’s Chair: Optometry School Applicant Interview

This article was written by a member of SCCO’s faculty, Dr. Corina van de Pol.  She writes about what it’s like to be in the interviewer’s chair.  She is an experienced interviewer and performs many each year for SCCO Admissions.  Her wisdom will most certainly provide insight and help calm any nerves you may have about the process.

Bio Photo van de Pol

by Corina van de Pol, OD, Phd

I remember some years ago going to meet with the Vice President of a Medical Device Company for what was termed an “Informational Meeting.”  Since I was still in the military, I couldn’t really interview for a job, so this was more of a chance to just talk.  We talked about our respective backgrounds, we discussed clinical research, we discussed optometry and ophthalmology, we discussed the product the company was working on, and I got quite the opportunity to ask questions and to talk about my experiences and interests.  The CEO came in for a while and we also chatted…

At the end of it all, to my surprise, I was given a job offer!

Now I had a dilemma.  Should I stay in the military or instead retire and go for this great opportunity.

As a result of this experience, I decided on my way home to retire from the military.  I smiled as I suddenly realized that I didn’t even have to “interview,” and I had a new job!”

Or so I thought. On second thought, I guess I had gone through an interview.  It was just that I had been so comfortable and at ease, it felt like more of a conversation than an interview.

When I think about what optometry school interviewing applicants are going through when interview, I wonder if you might be too focused on the term “interview.”  Rather, I propose that, much as I had done, you are actually coming in for an “informational meeting.”  If you made it to the interview round of SCCO’s process, and as per your academic performance, OAT scores, and experiences, you are qualified to be here.  Don’t ever forget that!  What our meeting is all about is to get to know the person behind the numbers and data points.  In other words, what makes you tick, what makes you excited about this new stage in your life, what can you bring to the profession?  We are also meeting so that you can get a better idea about SCCO at MBKU and maybe some idea of how we, as faculty, think, namely what makes us tick and why we as both faculty and optometrists are so excited about our profession.

Sure there are specific questions and topics that we will need to cover and you may already have some insight as to what some of the topics might be.  That’s a good thing.  It means you can give some thought as to how you may want to present yourself or describe specific situations that you might want to be able to use to describe how youvan de Pol, Corina_teacher of the quarter have researched the profession and how optometry is right for you. But it doesn’t mean you should memorize answers to a variety of possible questions.  You’re probably better off just thinking about some key points and concepts that you hope to get across during the interview.  If you can weave these points into your responses, all the better.

You’ve probably heard it a million times, but I’ll say it again just to reinforce it … just be yourself.

Being “yourself” may seem obvious, like  – who else could you be?! But I’m here to caution you so that you don’t try to be someone that you think the interviewer wants you to be.

Perhaps you could be extra witty or extra funny or maybe even extra serious.  This is not a sound strategy because these tactics, this inauthenticity is easy to spot. Too, you may be tempted to use someone else’s story about why they chose optometry, just because their story is better than yours.

From my perspective as an interviewer, I’d rather hear an authentic mundane story from your own life experiences of why you chose the profession than one that was borrowed or made up.

It’s your life experiences that make you who you are, and this is the person I want to get to know on interview day.

So, before you meet with your interviewer, think about what makes you tick and how you got to this point.  Think about the interview as a conversation.  You probably have as much to bring to the conversation as the interviewer does.

Take a deep breath and enjoy the moment because I am certain I will enjoy my time with you during the interview.

Dr. van de Pol regularly takes student groups to foreign countries to provide much needed eye care.

“Took a great group of newly minted second years to Tijuana on an SVOSH/Flying Sams collaboration clinic. We saw 73 patients and the students honed their skills in retinoscopy, ophthalmoscopy, trial frame refraction and hand-held slit lamp testing. So proud of their clinical abilities and willingness to give up a Saturday to help those in need.”

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