My SMU School of Information Systems Interview 2017

Hey there! I figured if you are reading this, you would have probably searched for ‘SMU interview’, which led you here. There’s nothing to be embarassed about as I did the same thing when I was preparing for the interview.

Just some background story for you, it was my 3rd attempt applying for SMU, I applied previously in 2014, 2016 and the latest 2017. I didn’t apply in 2015 because I thought I couldn’t make it anyway, what for the effort. For each application I applied a different course as the 1st choice. Only during the 2017 intake, I figured out the only chance to get in was to choose IS (My poly GPA was around the 10th percentile of the IGP). I don’t know why Business didn’t grant me and interview although it seems like they do so for people around my GPA.

If you’re to lazy to read or not care about the background, skip to the real business.

I received a few missed calls while I was in Korea during March 2017 for holiday, the 25th to be exact. After which I went to googled the number, as it doesn’t seem like phishing scam calls, as they called a few times. The search results obviously, led me to believe that is SMU who called, and I already somehow predicted that it could be for an interview arrangement.

Then, I troubled my friend to help me call back the number to confirm my guess and I was right! They scheduled me and interview around one week later, on the 4th of April.

What to prepare then?

The email from the SMU admissions informed me about the preparation for the interview, so its either answer a Karel question (something like a pseudo-CSS/Java coding puzzle) or compare 2 websites based on the 10 User Heuristics, which both had study materials provided via email to prepare amply beforehand.

Needless to say, if you are going for an interview, you should be preparing questions that you might foresee being asked, if you haven’t already known that. I prepared around 4 pages of questions along with my answers to them, including the questions for the interviewer(s). Please do prepare questions to ask, because its an INTERVIEW not an INTERROGATION. Asking questions shows your keen interest towards the major you applied for.

For me, I decided to do the KAREL question which is also a pre-requirement of the interview last year, in 2016. Interview before 2016 did not include this format. In addition, in 2017, they added WEBSITE COMPARISON as an alternative option to the pre-interview assessment.

I went to read other posts about the interview as well, and many past year candidates said they asked on an estimation question. Something that goes like “How many people one MRT can fit?”

But NO, it wasn’t asked.

The Interview Day.

Bring your stuff – if you have a portfolio to show, bring it. Otherwise, the rest of your academic documents are important as well. The email stated, “dress in Smart Casual”. Smart casual can be ambiguous and confusing to many. In my opinion, for a formal occasion like an interview, smart casual simply means ‘no blazer’. Hence, you might want to wear formal, but leave the blazer out. I noticed some candidates really wore casual – Polo Tees, Covered Shoes. Honestly, it’s your choice. I am not saying it’s wrong, but be safe than sorry yeah? Moreover, its a business school! So uhh.. no excuse!

Reached the campus, signed in at the security, saw around 15 other people’s name on the name list and went up to the waiting room. The waiting room is where the pre-interview assessment is conducted. By succession, I waited for my turn to complete the Karel question.

The requirement was to replicate the result on the paper. I was dumbfounded when I saw the question, but I decided to do the long method without using any shortcuts. I recalled I was extemeely anxious because I thought this very first stage was just going to kill me. After I solve it the long way, I managed to use the remaining time to shorten my solution using other functions. Thankfully, I solved it in the end.

After waiting, its finally my turn for the real interview, conducted at the Dean’s Office. There were 2 interviewers and I am the only interviewee. I was really relived. (Imagine competing on a spurt of verbal rattle with other candidates…)

The interviewer asked whether I knew that my solution didn’t work on a even sized world, I gave it a thought and realised why. I couldn’t think of the proper to do it, as I would require the computer to type the codes and figure whether it would work or not.

Anyhow, they said that it’s alright, at least I could identify the problem, and we went on to the get-to-know you interview.

They asked the standard interview questions like: ‘Why did I want to join IS?’, ‘Name one project you are proud of’. They would probably pick one project on your resume and ask you about it. If you are a computer student previously, that should be no challenge.

The interviewer will vouch for more information along the way as you are sharing about yourself, so just anticipate that and answer them accordingly. At the end of it, it will be your turn to ask the questions. Do ask diligent questions, questions that make you stand out and not those that answers can be found on the website. For my year, a new major was launched, a good question could have been regarding about the new major, e.g. industry partnerships.

With that, I ended my interview.

TLDR, your takeaway:

  • Prepare what to say and what to ask
  • Practice the pre-interview assessment thoroughly
  • Dress proper, work wear
  • Anticipate surprises, and don’t panic
  • Give a firm handshake
  • Ask intelligent questions if not questions that reflect your good traits
  • No estimation question, nor weird questions
  • 2 interviewers to 1 (Varies from individual – Some of my friends had one to one and one to five)

Good luck to your interview!

And if are wondering… YES I GOT IN! Got me on cloud-nine receiving that letter. After 35 days after the interview I received the offer. Yep, I remembered it that exact.

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