So you received a call to go for The Interview? How well prepared are you? Being well equipped will settle the butterflies in your stomach and increase your chances of securing the scholarship. Here are a few tips to help you stay cool and get set for the big day.
Days Before The Interview
When you applied for a scholarship, you would already have first impressions of the various sponsor companies. It is worthwhile to find out more about the companies as one of them could well be your future employer.
Research On Sponsors
Information sources can come from your family members, the Internet, newspapers and magazines, corporate brochures, etc.
Bear in mind the respective terms and conditions and requirements (bond, internship, etc) in the advertisement put up by the scholarship sponsors; you might want to raise a few questions regarding these at the interview. Whatever questions you plan to ask, ensure that the answers are not already stated in the respective scholarship advertisement.
Prepare A Comprehensive Resume And Cover Letter
A well-organised and neatly typed resume is pleasant to the eye and makes reading easy. Divide your resume into sections, with a header for each one. Include your academic results, awards and achievements, CCAs (eg. sports, uniform group, community service) and vacation work experience. Your scanned colour passport photo should be embedded in the resume. Make copies of the resume; you may have to distribute them to the interview panel members for review. Get someone to proofread your resume and correct/update where applicable. Also prepare a simple cover letter addressed to the scholarship sponsor to be attached to the resume in front. This cover letter is a brief introduction of yourself and should include briefly the reasons for your scholarship application.
Create Personal Portfolio
At the interview, you will need to show proof of your qualifications and achievements. Get a sturdy catalogue folder with several transparent sleeves for the presentation. Slot the resume you have prepared into the first sleeve, followed by your original results, educational certificates and testimonials in chronological order – Primary to Secondary to JC/Polytechnic.
Include documents that you think will boost your chances for the scholarship. These could be your music diploma, vacation job references or course attendance certificates. Familiarise yourself with the contents and the pages in your portfolio.
Check Out The Location
Your letter from the sponsor company would have indicated the time and place of the interview. Use your initiative: you can call the office, look up the internet or refer to the street directory. You can hazard a guess as to the time taken for the journey by public transport, but a safer bet would be to make a dry run. If you do, note the bus stop or train station you get off, and also how long the whole journey takes!
Spend some time to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Do you have the X-factor to put you ahead? A unique skill or hidden talent perhaps?
Brace yourself for questions on your values, hopes and aspirations, hobbies, among others. Keep in mind the specific questions you plan to ask the interview panel on the scholarship.
It is useful to write down your answers to some commonly asked questions and practise saying them as you would at the interview. You may even record it and listen to how you sound when you play it back.
The Day Of The Interview
Naturally, you can’t help feeling excited that the day has finally arrived, but it’s important to stay focused, keep your feet on the ground and collect your thoughts.
Now that you know how to get there, plan your journey such that you will arrive a little earlier than the appointed time. If for any reason you cannot help but be late, take a taxi but notify the person who arranged your interview when you expect to reach the office.
You will need to look and (feel good) but not showy, so avoid too many ornaments and accessories, no matter how much you love wearing them.
You should have already prepared a set of smart-looking (skip the bright colours!) clothes for the occasion and have them neatly pressed. Give your shoes a new shine if you must. Also, make sure your portfolio is in order. Before you change, a good suggestion is to take a shower and freshen up your breath.
Facing The Interviewers
When greeting the interview panel members, remember to look them in the eye and smile. Shake hands firmly but not forcefully. Impressions are formed within the first few seconds of meeting someone.
You should be ready to present your portfolio to the panel. Use your discretion to comment as the interviewers gloss over the documents.
Speak clearly and confidently. Be friendly but not over-familiar. When answering questions, maintain eye contact with the member who posed the question but turn occasionally to the rest of the panel members to show that they have your attention as well.
The interview is also an opportunity for you to find out if the company suits you. Ask questions to clear any doubts regarding the scholarship. Ask questions which are innovative, intelligent and show that you have given the scholarship some thought. Don’t ask questions whose answers are painfully obvious or can already be found in the scholarship advertisement.
At the end of the interview, thank the panel for the opportunity to meet them and extend your hand graciously for another handshake to each of the members, smiling while at it. Although not the norm, a brief and gentle bow before leaving the room would certainly impress the interviewers!