By Lim Guan Liang, Ivan (CNM Major, Year 2)
Interviews, interviews and more interviews! Now’s the time of the semester that students are receiving calls for these nerve-wrecking, make or break affairs – be they for internships or scholarships. To some, this may not be new. But for the many others, it may be the first time ever. And first times are naturally going to be scary!
If you’re one of these people, don’t fret! There’s always a first time for everything. Interviews are no exception. I admit I’m no expert at them, but having personally attended several scholarship interviews over the past few weeks, I’ve learnt a number of things that might be useful for you! Here I’ll be sharing some of my experiences, as well as providing some tips for those who will too be going for interviews in the near future.
Basically, I believe in a three stage preparatory sequence that seems to work for me. This starts with the most important step – know yourself. I say this because interviews are very much about selling yourself, and if you do not know yourself (just imagine a salesperson not knowing his product), you’ll obviously will find it difficult to clinch the deal. Thus, before any interview, do take time to do a little “research” on yourself, something I’m sure us CNM students have ample experience in! For instance, ask yourself what are your strengths and weaknesses (everyone has them), and note them down. Think about what you are as a person, your interests, and any other interesting things about you. Note them down. Knowing yourself also comprises knowing how you can fit within the organisation that you’re interviewing for. Look up the organisation you are interviewing for, note their distinguishing elements (what they do, mission and core values etc.), and think how you are a match for them.
With these things done, you’ll naturally progress to the next stage, which is to prepare accordingly. With all the notes that you have made about yourself and the organisation, now’s the time to organise them into coherent thoughts with which you’ll rehearse, preferably until it becomes second nature whenever you’re asked about them. One way to do this is simply by looking up common interview questions, then answering them with those notes. A Google search will throw up a whole range of possible questions, and while those for jobs will tend to be slightly different from those for scholarships, the common questions generally remain the same. Here’s a short list of the most common scholarship questions that I’ve heard being asked:
- Tell me about yourself
- Why did you choose the course you are studying in now?
- Why did you apply for this scholarship?
- What is your greatest achievement/thing you are most proud of?
- What are your goals/strengths/weaknesses/career aspirations?
- Did you apply for scholarships elsewhere? Why?
- Why should we select you?
Answering the list of questions above should generally give you a comprehensive picture of yourself. Rehearse them either with yourself or with others. Interviewers will ask different variations of these common questions, and in your first few interviews, it’s natural if you stumble over your answers. But practice makes perfect, and you will improve your answers over time! Being completely honest with your answers helps too.
The final stage is when you actually get to put what you’ve done into practice. At the interview place, be cheerful (both before and at the interview). This means basically being as positive as you can be – smile at people, and talk to them. You will probably meet other candidates at the interview, and yes they will be competing with you for the same spot, but I find that interacting with them before your actual interview begins is a great way to warm up, especially since you already have common ground as fellow interviewees. Not only will it help to alleviate your nervousness, you’d probably realise that the things you say to them (introductions etc.) are very similar to what you’ll eventually say to your interviewers! It’s like last minute rehearsals before the big event. And it works.
These are just some small pointers you might want to take on in your coming interview preparations. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again – there will always be new opportunities! For every interview you go for, do remember to know yourself, prepare accordingly, and be as cheerful as you can be. I sincerely wish you the best of luck for all of them!