The fellowship application process often involves an interview. Interviews tend to occur in the later stages of a fellowship’s or scholarship’s competition time line.  Selection committees make preliminary decisions based only on the written application and then invite those who are most promising to be interviewed.  Those who are invited for an interview need to prepare carefully as the interview will ultimately determine whether or not a candidate is successful.

Interview formats vary greatly between fellowship programs.

  • Some only require an on-campus interview made up of faculty and/or academic advisors.
  • Other fellowships convene their own interview panels made up of their alumni, the sponsoring organization’s board members, or accomplished academics/professionals in the field.
  • The interviews may be conducted one-on-one, or with a panel of interviewers. They can be done in person, by telephone and more frequently by Skype.  Some interviews may even be done in a group setting. In most cases the interviews are done by a panel of interviewers where a single candidate is asked different questions by each panel member.


Why an interview?

Interviews are critical to the selection process. They give the selection committee the opportunity to learn more about you and how well you think on your feet.  They will be able to gauge your qualifications for their program and get to know how well you understand a particular discipline or topic.  The interview will also  convince the committee that you are not just “strong on paper” but that you  can articulate who you are as an individual and showcase your strengths and skills .


What happens if I am invited to an interview?

Baruch students who received an invitation to an interview will be given the opportunity to participate in mock interviews with Baruch faculty and staff trained in interview techniques.  These mock interviews will be as similar to the actual interview experience as possible. This is an effective way to prepare and to help you understand the expectations and actually focus on the questions and your responses.


Preparing for interviews:

  • Practice presenting your proposal or articulating why you are a strong candidate to your friends and advisors.
  • Attend mock interviews arranged by the Baruch Fellowships Advisor or through the Starr Career Development Center.
  • The Starr Career Development Center can record yourself being interviewed which will show you any nervous or awkward habits you may have. This can help you to improve your nonverbal communication and body language.
  • Think about the kinds of questions that you may be asked and practice answering them.  The Fellowships Advisor can help you come up with sample questions relevant to the award for which you are interviewing.
  • Be sure to have answers for the following questions:  How are you a good fit for this fellowship?  How will you benefit from this opportunity, and what will you contribute to the organization/those you work with etc?
  • Be able to discuss your passions, your concerns, and your plans for the future.


Dress appropriately

  • Dress in professional attire.  You can get tips on what is considered “professional attire” from the Starr Career Development Center. 
  • Choose your outfit in advance to ensure that it fits and is free of stains or tears.  Do not wait until the last minute to find that professional look.
  • Dress comfortably.  You do not want to fidget with an ill-fitting or uncomfortable outfit during your interview. The interviewers should remember you and your responses, NOT what you were wearing.


Do Your Research

  • The scholarship selection committees are looking for candidates who embody the qualities their organizations value.  Research the organization: What is its purpose? Who was its founder?  What are its goals?
  • Read over all of your application materials.  Many of the interview questions will come from what you included in your application, transcripts and essays.
  • Review the history of the scholarship, past recipients and missions and goals.
  • If you are studying outside the U.S, be sure to research the country where you are going. Be prepared to discuss the country’s history, geography, political framework and current events.
  • Be up to date on current events around the world and in the U.S. Many questions may stem from what is going on in the news.


Characteristics of a Successful Interview

The best interviews are those that feel more like a conversation an interrogation.  You should engage with questions, rather than merely respond.  Some characteristics of a successful interview are:


Confidence.  You have a lot to be proud of.  Fewer than half of those who submitted applications will be invited to interview.  You have already impressed the selection committee on paper and now you need to show them that you are deserving of their award.  Your body language should convey your confidence.  You should sit up straight, not slouch.  Use appropriate hand gesture, and keep them in your lap when not using them.  Do not touch your face or hair too often.  Keep the tone of your voice even and loud enough for them to hear.  Do not mumble, articulate every word and do not speak too fast.  Also, watch out for the over use of “like” or “um.”  Keep your answers concise and to the point.  Spend no more than 1 to 3 minutes on each response.


Respect.  Shake hands with a firm handshake while making eye contact at the beginning and end of the interview.  Carefully listen to each question and do not be afraid to let a few moments go by as your form your answer.  Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know” if you do not know an answer.  You will come off better than if you attempted to give an answer that was nonsense.  Honesty and humility are more impressive characteristics than coming off as a know it all.  Make eye contact with all your interviewers, not just the one who asked you a particular question if the interview is conducted by a panel.  Remember to say “thank you” at the end of the interview.


Professionalism.  Arrive on time or somewhat early (but not more than 15 minutes.)  Do not take anything with you into the interview room other than a handbag or notebook. Make sure your cell phone is turned off.  Be polite and courteous.  It is OK to defend your point of view if you are being challenged, but do this with humble confidence (not arrogance).  Your perspective is valid.  The selection committee wants to see how well you can intelligently and convincingly convey your ideas.  Remember how you behave during the interview is just as important as the responses that you give.


Knowledge.  There is no way to predict exactly what questions you will be asked, but you can be sure that qualities of engagement, confidence, manner, affability, and sincerity may all be assessed.  Provided that you’ve done your homework and sufficiently prepared for the questions that you will be asked you should have no problem exhibiting your knowledge of your subject matter.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question or ask for clarification on something if it is unclear. You want to make sure that your response is related to the question.  It is always a good idea to have a grasp of current trends that are occurring in your field.  In addition, you should have some general knowledge of events occurring here in the U.S., and in your host country if you are applying for an international fellowship.  Avoid using slang, or too many technical terms or discipline specific acronyms unless you know that your committee is made up entirely of experts in that field.


Enthusiasm.  Smile!  Show your enthusiasm for the opportunity and for your proposed study program or project.  If you have any new or updated information to offer since applying be sure to tell them.  Do not forget to thank them for their time.

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