Preparing for a Fellowship Interview

If you're new to Fellowships interviews, or to interviews in general, predicting what to expect and preparing for it can be difficult. Here are some tips to help ease the stress!

Preparing for Online Interviews

Many interviews now take place virtually. You'll find valuable guidance for successful online interviews on the web pages below. 

Several key points: 

  • Rehearse!
  • Be aware of how your head and shoulders are positioned in the frame of your computer's camera.
  • Be aware of background, which should be neat, uncluttered, not distracting to interviewers.
  • Be careful in the interview with hand gestures, particularly because your connection may freeze and thus hold your image in an awkward position.
  • Be patient with yourself and with your interviewers.

Websites with tips for online interviews

Interview Tips

1. Expect more than 1 interviewer.  Being prepared to talk to a group rather than one individual is useful so that you aren't shocked when you walk in. Be ready to address multiple people, and make eye contact with each of them, while you speak.

2. Dress Accordingly. Interviews are formal, so you should be too. For men, it is standard to wear a jacket or suit and a tie. For women, a dress, suit, or nice skirt and blouse is best.

3. Preparation is essential. Think about what you will say in advance to standard, open-ended questions interviewers typically ask. These may include: What is your most significant achievement? What has shaped you? What is the most controversial thing that you have ever done? What was your worst failure and what did you learn from it? What will you do next year if you don't get the fellowship? What do you like about your area of study?

4. Re-read Your Application (repeatedly). Be prepared to talk about anything you say in the application, because all of it, especially the personal statement, is fair game. You may be questioned about your proposed course of study, graduate school choices, and research plans, so make sure you know what you want to do and where you want to do it.

5. Keep Up on Current Events. Know something about what is going on in the U.S. or the rest of the world as part of the interview will deal with current events. Read newspapers that report on international and national news. This is especially important for those people seeking fellowships in a foreign country - know the current events of your desired destination. The New York Times and The Economist are often suggested as good sources. Also find out what is going on in your home state through local newspapers there. Have an opinion. You should be prepared to answer questions dealing with what you feel is the biggest problem in the U.S. (or world) today and how you would overcome that problem.

6. Give Short Answers. Individual interviews usually last c. 30 minutes, so time your responses accordingly. (Some awards also conduct group or panel interviews which may vary in length). You don't want to spend too much time on any one question. If they want to hear more, the committee will ask for more.

7. Body Language and Speech are Key. Try and relax. Sit up straight. If you want something to do with your hands put them together. Smile (or at least avoid frowning), this makes you look more relaxed even if you aren’t. Try to appear open and make sure you make eye contact. Speak clearly and loudly enough that you will be heard. Use short sentences, as leave no room for confusion; they allow you to make your point. They also give the impression that you have a concise logical mind. Speak slowly enough that you can be clearly understood. This will have the added bonus of allowing your brain to work out what you are going to say next. Avoid filler words "ah," "umm," "like."  You'll be better served by pausing, taking a deep breath and then confidently continuing with a fully formulated thought. 

8. Be Yourself. This advice seems like a cliché, but it is true. The interview is formal, but remember to keep a smile on. Channel your nervous energy into enthusiasm for the Fellowship!

9. Don't Be Afraid to Say, "I don't know."  Some interviewers may push a particular line of questioning intending to find the point when you have to say, "I don't know."

10. Mock Interview. Ask a professional who you trust to give you a mock interview to practice. That way you can feel more comfortable answering interview questions.

11. Come Prepared with Questions. Interviewers want to know that you took the time to look into their program and have a vested interest in it. Coming ready to ask them some questions to get more details shows that you are passionate about what you have applied for.

Page last modified January 21, 2022