Five tips to ace a scholarship interview
by StudyMalaysia on March 31, 2017 | Top Stories
Got a scholarship interview coming up? Whether you think it’s gonna be an easy or nail-biting interview, it pays to be prepared. You’ve sent out scores of applications – now that you’ve got an interview, you want to make sure you give it your best shot.
Interviews can be one of the most daunting part of the scholarship application process, but they are quite likely the step that determines whether or not you’re deserving of the award. Interviews can be unpredictable and out of your control; you might have the bad luck to be assigned an interviewer who is having a bad day. Your interview is where you need to show why you deserve the award, and an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. Grades are great, but personality and attitude also matter. There are plenty of things you can do to ace the interview portion--here are five simple steps that we’ve outlined for you to start with.
First Step: Research, research, research
The very first step you should take before any interview is to get to know the organisation offering the scholarship and what their goals are. Are their goals to foster future business leaders? Or maybe the scholarship aims to grow a specific subject area. Going in blind is the biggest mistake that you could make as your interviewer will expect you to come in with some foreknowledge about the programme and where you might fit in.
Pull up the organisation’s website and find out what exactly it is that they do. Usually these companies will maintain an up-to-date website with the latest information and tips on how to succeed in your application. Make an effort to consult them for nuggets of information that you can leverage to your benefit. Check up on any previous scholars; ask yourself what made them stand out or why they suited the programme's goals.
This research is not for you to info-dump during the interview; knowing discrete and relevant facts about the programme will help you to organise an opinion about the company and tailor your responses. That way, your interviewer will know that you are serious about the scholarship and have a solid idea of how you would benefit not just yourself but society at large.
Second Step: Take some time to be mindful
It can be easy to get lost in the noise of preparation and lose sight of the whole point of an interview. Interviews are crucial parts of the scholarship application process that allow interviewers to get a feel of your personality and why you would most benefit from the programme. The interviewer is not out to get you, but is in fact there to get to know you better and ascertain if you’ll be the best person to receive the award.
When preparing, write down some notes to help organise your thoughts. Stress caused by uncertainty can result in a flubbed interview. Perhaps you could find some space to meditate and be mindful so you can mitigate any stress or panic you might feel.
Third Step: Prepared is just another word for success
From the very moment you get word of the interview, you should start preparing. Do a quick Google search for the most common interview mistakes, and plan how you can overcome them. The Balance has a comprehensive list of the most common interview mistakes that people make; they cite inappropriate dress and lateness as the top two. Take control of the situation by planning your outfit the night before (get some feedback, if you are unsure!) and set a few alarms if you are not an early bird. Pro-tip: make a note of your interview time and date from the start, and set an alert on your smartphone or a reminder in your planner, so you can avoid mixing up appointments.
Prepare for the style of interview: is it a phone interview? A Skype interview? A group or lunch interview? Each style will necessitate a different approach, so you should prepare accordingly: brush up on your interpersonal skills, or check that you have adequate dining etiquette, or make sure you’ve got a secure Internet connection. Feel free to drop a message to the organisation for more information about the interview to help you prepare. Perhaps reach out to past scholars and ask them for any advice specific to the programme.
Fourth Step: Practise with a friend
Interviews are all about communication, so a great way to prepare is to rope in a friend to help you simulate an interview. Think of some likely interview questions, and have your friend pretend to be your interviewer. Though you can’t really simulate a real live interview, knowing you have done a trial-run can help boost your confidence.
Whilst you are practising, work on your body language and communication--are you answering the questions coherently and accurately? Is your body conveying any negativity or are you physically closed off? These little details can affect your interviewer’s response. Check in frequently with your friend to make sure you’re hitting all the right notes.
Final Step: It all really boils down to you
Remember that at the end of the day, you are your biggest asset. Do a quick onceover of your CV and make sure you know exactly what is going on there. It might seem like an obvious aspect to cover, but it is as easy to overlook as it is to fix. If there are any red flags in your CV, such as any gaps of unrecorded time or an interesting experience you want to highlight, take note so you can address them during your interview should they come up.
Above all, do not panic! There is an aspect of luck to these interviews, and usually you must let your natural charisma carry you through. Be true to your goals and your strengths, and let those achievements and traits speak for themselves. Find ways to relax right before the interview, so you can go in confident and sure of yourself. The preparation you have done before can only carry you so far, and the rest is up to you. Good luck!