For many students, interviews are all about stress and nervousness. But they don’t have to be! Of course, you may have some butterflies in your stomach, but if you are well-prepared, the interview can actually be a great experience.
The first step in playing an active role in your interview is to know yourself. Be able to talk about yourself, your skills, and your talents in concise summaries. Take time to put a list together of your skills, talents, and areas for growth, identifying an example or comment for each.
You should also be able to easily talk about your career goals, your interest in that particular university or scholarship, and why you deserve it. Think not only about the benefits to you, but also what you can contribute in return. Do your homework on the institution you are interviewing with. Being able to tell the interviewer how you plan to give back can be a powerful thing!
Myra Gonzalez, associate director of honors and scholarship programs at Texas A&M University, suggests that you practice before your interview as a way to help alleviate those pre-interview jitters. Your goal is not to memorize your answers, but rather is to feel comfortable with the format so you can better relax in the actual interview.
Gonzalez recommends enlisting the help of a high school counselor, teacher, or friend to practice well in advance of the big day. Rehearse listening to the questions carefully to ensure that you provide complete answers. After each question, talk about how you did. Did the interviewer understand your point? How was your eye contact and body language? Honest feedback can help you identify areas to work on and also help you recognize your strengths.
Your interviewer will meet dozens of applicants, so it is your job to stand out in a good way. Your interview is an opportunity to put a face to your application, so make sure your personality stands out. Try to connect with your interviewer and reference that in your thank you note.
Gonzalez also reminds students to mind their manners. Your interview begins the moment you step through the door. Treat everyone with respect and know that all of their interactions with you are being observed carefully.
Your goal is to leave the interview knowing you represented yourself well. By doing your homework beforehand, you can ensure you will be well-prepared, be confident, and above all, be you.