12 university admissions interview blunders – and how you can avoid them

12 university admissions interview blunders – and how you can avoid them

If you’re applying to university, you might be invited for an interview, so we asked student guidance group Hok Yau Club and university lecturers for the most common mistakes students make

Think you’ll be getting a well-deserved break once the DSEs are over? Not quite. If you’re applying to university, you might be invited for interviews. Young Post asked Hok Yau Club, a student guidance group that offers advice on further education, and some of Hong Kong’s university lecturers to share the top blunders candidates usually make in their interviews.

Ng Po-shing, director of Hok Yau Club Student Guidance Centre:

Put your phone away

Candidates are advised to switch off their mobile phones during the interviews, but having your mobile phone out before and after the interview is a bad idea, too. Playing on your phone is not a good way to control your nerves and it will give your interviewers a bad impression. Try to restrain yourself and be serious throughout the whole process. Let your interviewers know you are mature enough for university life.


Do your research on the faculty or university you’re interviewing for. For example, Ng says it can be disastrous and embarrassing if a student goes for an interview at the Chinese University’s Faculty of Engineering and talks about civil engineering, which is not offered by that faculty. Do your research, take a look at the faculty’s website and say something related to your chosen subjects.

Dress appropriately

What you’re wearing also shows how sincere you are. Make sure it’s neat, clean and appropriate – no shorts, mini skirts, sleeveless shirts or flip flops. A conservative look is most appropriate for law or finance faculty; a business causal look is acceptable for design or creative media faculty. Respect yourself and your interviewers. (A guide on dressing appropriately for interviews)

Incomplete answers

Many candidates “hard-sell” their strengths, such as strong leadership, teamwork and communication, without explaining how they develop these skills. It helps if you explain and give evidence for the strengths you’re talking about. Prepare some examples of your personal experience.

Jason Yam Cheuk-sing, assistant professor, Chinese University’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Lack of initiative

When asked why they want to study medicine, some candidates say it was their parents’ decision. This is a very bad answer. Responses such as “I want a bright future and a comfortable life”, will also not impress your interviewers.

For a question like this, prepare your goals and reasons why you personally want to study the course. Show your interviewers you can take initiative by choosing some specific modules from the course and explaining why they appeal to you. Also, be realistic. Just because you want to study medicine doesn’t mean you have to want to become part of Doctors Without Borders. Being yourself is the most important thing.

Too self-oriented

Some candidates in a group interview are too dominant. They only share their own views, without listening to anyone else or trying to see things from someone else’s perspective. This will not impress the interviewers. Most professions involve some element of team work, so being able to collaborate is vital to your long-term success.

Learning a script

Interviewers get bored if candidates only repeat what they’ve submitted on paper. Your interviewers have read your documents, including your report cards and Other Experiences and Achievements in Competitions / Activities (OEA). Try to say something that you haven’t mentioned already, or expand on one of your achievements with new information.

Bruce Lui Ping-kuen, Baptist University’s Department of Journalism senior lecturer

Unrealistic dreams

Some candidates only want to be famous journalists or are passionate about the subject, but they’re not familiar with current affairs. According to Lui, some candidates go for journalism interviews and are unable to name even one or two of the key officials in the city. How can these candidates expect to tackle Hong Kong’s issues and concerns if they don’t know what is going on or who is responsible? Show you are committed to the industry and society by reading up on current affairs.

Ask yourself why you want to be a journalist. Share any inspirational stories. If you were asked how you would put yourself in the shoes of a street sleeper, you could highlight any activities you have done to raise awareness of the issue or to improve your understanding of it.

Improper behaviour

Some habits, like shaking legs and being late are impolite but a few candidates still do it. Show that you are able to stay calm under pressure. Be humble and sincere.

Professor Leslie Chen Hung-chi, dean of the faculty of Design & Environment at Technological and Higher Education Institute (THEi)

Poor English-language skills

Some candidates are not confident speaking English. After introducing themselves, they are not able to answer other questions using the second language. Some students memorise answers, but such vague and unnatural responses will not impress the interviewers. Listen to the questions carefully, and try to answer them accurately and in your own way.

Plain portfolios

For Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fashion Design at THEi, candidates should bring a portfolio of original work to the interview. Some portfolios only have examples of the latest trends, without demonstrating how innovative the students are. Remember it’s a good time to showcase your creative drawing and clear presentation skills.

No understanding of the industry

It’s not ideal when candidates are only interested in their chosen subjects but have no knowledge of the industry itself or how they can contribute to that industry after they graduate. Be prepared for questions on the bigger picture.

Keep these tips in mind to make sure you don't make these common mistakes and you’ll be sure to guarantee your spot at university.

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Interview blunders to avoid


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