Some scholarships will require personal interviews as part of their selection process. Interviews can be very helpful as it offers you an opportunity to share about yourself face-to-face with a judge or committee. Many people are afraid of interviews and are intimidated by them. However, with plenty of practice and proper instruction, you can learn to ace your interview—and boost your scholarship chances tremendously. Here are some tips to help you prepare for your interview.
Relax and Be Yourself
Don’t feel pressured going into the interview. Don’t feel like you have to impress the judges or say what you think they want to hear. Think of it this way—they already like you so just be yourself. The interview is nothing more than a conversation between you and judges about yourself and your thoughts. They are scoring you on the way you answer your questions, how well you understand the question, and how well you conduct yourself. If you’re scared or have a few butterflies, it’s completely normal. But remember to relax and just simply talk about yourself and your views. Before long, the nervousness and anxiety will be gone.
Keep Your Answer to the Point and Succinct
When you are asked a question, it should ideally evoke a response from you—whether one of agreement, surprise, or excitement. Don’t be afraid to show your emotions and thought process when you’re in the interview. If the question is a little difficult to answer right away, it’s ok to say, “Hmm…that’s a difficult question.” They don’t expect you to have canned, robotic answers after all. From there, you should start to answer the question. Have a big picture idea of how you want to answer the question as you’re speaking. In other words, you should be thinking about your second point while explaining your first point. It’s best to give an example following the old adage, “Show, don’t tell.” Frame the question by stating your core answer. Then elaborate by using an example. Avoid going on long tangents or rambling about an unrelated story.
Be Personal and Enthusiastic
You should be confident in your answers so show your enthusiasm. Don’t be overexcited to the point that it seems forced, but you should not look bored. If you can use examples that you’re passionate about, your enthusiasm will come through naturally so have four or five examples ready in your mind so you can use them if necessary. You should engage the judges but don’t embellish. Of course, remember to smile as you’re speaking.
Dress, Look, and Act Professional
The dress code should be business attire. It’s always best to dress nicer. It’s easier to go from formal to casual than from casual to formal. Girls should wear skirts, dresses, business suits, etc. While it is fine to wear open-toed shoes to an interview, you may want to be more conservative and wear closed-toe shoes. Guys should wear slacks or dress pants, a dress shirt or collared shirt, a tie if you have one, and in some cases, a blazer or sport coat. Remember to shine your shoes as judges will notice many of these details.
Interaction Before, During, and After
Arrive 5-10 minutes prior to your scheduled time. You should not arrive more than 10 minutes early. Be nice, respectful, and courteous to everyone you meet, including receptionists, servers, and secretaries. Be proactive about introducing yourself, greeting people, and shaking hands. During your interview, remember to make and hold eye contact with the judges. When you talk, find something for your hands to do. Don’t click your pen, twiddle your thumbs, or make any noise, but think about how you can use them to help your interview (i.e. using hand motions/gestures to elaborate a point). After the interview is over, stand and shake hands with each judge and thank them for their participation in the scholarship selection process (perhaps ask for a business card too, if you’d like to stay in touch for future advice, etc.). Be careful that you don’t sound insincere. You should send them a thank you note after your interview.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Work with your counselor or career advisor on interview questions and your speaking style. Find some sample interview questions and practice answering them. For the few days leading up to the interview, begin thinking about how you might answer the questions and what questions they might ask. Practice your speaking abilities by looking in a mirror or record yourself on a webcam. Work with other people to further develop your own answers.
For more information on preparing for interviews, check out FastWeb’s article on preparing for interviews.
Interviews are a great opportunity for you to set yourself apart from other applicants. The judges have seen your resume, your application, and your qualifications. Use the interview to show them you as a person. For a list of tips and sample questions, check out this Interview Questions and Tips guide sheet to prepare for interviews. Remember to be yourself, be honest and genuine with your answers, and to have fun. With a bit of practice, you’ll be smoking all of your interviews.