Guillermo Velilla needs to stay calm and collected. He needs his English to flow perfectly for Neeley’s Interview Day.
“When I came to the U.S. two years ago, everything changed: my language, my culture, and the study system,” Velilla said.
Now, Velilla and his fellow pre-business major students prepare for Interview Day, the rite of passage for TCU students hoping to officially enter the business program. Professors and business professionals interview pre-business students to determine whether or not the students are accepted into the Neeley School of Business.
The sophomore pre-business major from Paraguay made it through his mock interview, studied popular questions interviewers ask, and wrote down his main points to convey.
“Even though it’s very hard to speak in English when you are nervous or under pressure, the most important factor is to be calm so you can speak better English,” Velilla said.
Leo Nguyen, a pre-business major originally from Vietnam, said he would attend Interview Day with Velilla on October 15.
Nguyen said he hopes his interviewer will understand him just fine.
“For me, it’s not my first language,” Nguyen said. “I think we hope to have understanding from native English speakers.”
Nguyen, who transferred to TCU from a community college in California, has lived in the United States for two and a half years. Nguyen said he attended workshops and received coaching upon entering the Neeley School.
Nguyen also attended a mock interview to prepare for Interview Day.
“[The interviewer] said the good thing about me is even though I’m an international student and sometimes he had difficulty understanding me a bit, the good thing is that I don’t feel that nervous.”
Though he said he is a bit nervous for the big day, Nguyen said he thinks Interview Day will help him approach job interviews in the future.
“I don’t think a lot of people had the experience of going to a real interview before,” Nguyen said. “It’s really helpful for us down the road when we go apply for a job or internship.”
The administration echoed Nguyen’s message. Kelly O’Brien, director of the Professional Development Center at Neeley, said alumni reflect positively on their experiences with Interview Day.
“It’s a nationally recognized best practice according to the AACSB,” O’Brien said. “Many of our alumni are now coming back and participating as interviewers and now they’re on the other side of the table. They find it to be a fascinating and great process.”
To prepare students for Interview Day, O’Brien said the Neeley School hosts an Entering Neeley seminar, which walks students through the interviewing process. After the seminar, students may ask questions.
“That’s where we see a lot of international students come up,” O’Brien said. “We can address concerns there.”
O’Brien said the Neeley School designs questions that identify characteristics employers look for based on a survey of companies by the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
O’Brien said one of the important characteristics that consistently emerges in survey results is professionalism. Neeley works to prepare international students for the norms of American professionalism.
“It takes a little more time depending on where they’re from,” O’Brien. “Sometimes, they’re not comfortable making eye contact. It’s ok; they expect you to look and them, smile and be pleasant, and talk about yourself.”
O’Brien said many international students also struggle with talking about themselves in interview because they do not want to seem cocky.
However, O’Brien said international students benefit by sharing their stories.
“They carry a very unique experience with them and it’s our goal to encourage them to talk about it during the interview,” O’Brien said.
If all goes well with Interview Day, Velilla would major in entrepreneurial management and business informational systems. He plans to return to Paraguay after college, then come back to earn a master’s degree.
“I know a lot and I’ve learned a lot here and I’m very grateful for that,” Velilla said. “I feel like I’ve learned much more than my GPA says.”
His classmate, Nguyen, would major in finance and accounting. Nguyen plans to attend grad school in the U.S., then return to work in Vietnam.
For now, both students try their best to get their points across.
“It’s mostly our efforts, but with a little bit of understanding from you guys,” Nguyen said.