The best advice for your interview is simple: be yourself. Interviewers expect to meet in person the individual they already have “met” on paper, and you can flounder if you try to be someone you’re not. That said, it’s important to concentrate on being your best self—dress appropriately, arrive on time, be courteous to those you meet, and be honest in your interview. The impression you make with your interviewers really does matter.
Without rehearsing or scripting answers, keep the six basic questions mentioned above in mind as you go into your interview. This preparation will help you focus on the sort of information you share and the points you’ll want to make with your interviewers. Feel free to take a moment to think before you answer a question, or to ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question. If you can’t answer a question, say so—but if you can, connect it to something you do know. If you feel you’ve said something you wish you hadn’t, you can address this issue directly later in the interview. Be sure to address each of your answers to everyone in the room.
It’s natural to feel nervous before an interview. But taking care of yourself beforehand—by preparing, getting a good night’s sleep, eating a healthy meal, and giving yourself time to arrive promptly—will help calm your nerves. If you can be comfortable with the interview as it unfolds, you’ll communicate confidence and selfreliance, qualities that will inevitably serve you well during a year overseas.
The First Selection
Employers who review job applications often make their first important decision by dividing all applicants into 3 groups. The first step in Fulbright's selection process also defines 3 categories:
1. rejects (not to be considered)
2. outstanding candidates (strong possibility of becoming winners)
3. all others (potential candidates, could be interviewed)
Group 1 candidates are the easiest to identify. These candidates are eliminated immediately for several reasons:
- Application form is not complete (documents are missing, questions left unanswered)
- Did not follow instructions (questions poorly answered, late submission, information is missing)
- Sloppiness (poor handwriting or typing, bad formatting)
- Accuracy and spelling (incorrect vocabulary, punctuation, grammar, poor sentence structure)
- Weak project description or personal statement (badly planned, poorly argued, does not demonstrate knowledge in the field, poor understanding of subject, limited familiarity with the research literature)
- Poor communication skills (many words, little substance, irrelevant information)
Group 2 is the smallest. These candidates create a positive first impression. Documents are neat and complete, all questions thoughtfully answered. Candidates proposed well-organized, well-argued and interesting projects. English is correct and the writing is easy to read and understand. These applicants demonstrate understanding of their subject areas, relevant academic experience, in some cases appropriate work experience, and potential for contributing to the database of knowledge on their topics. They seem to have potential for developing new research directions and for making significant improvements over current practice in education or in their fields. These candidates will be invited to interview.
Group 3 is the largest. Candidates described interesting topics, have some experience and demonstrate average communication skills. However, the projects are weakly argued or poorly described. This suggests lack of experience with English language or underdeveloped communication skills. Still, these application materials will be reviewed again for indications that the candidate has potential for contributing to the knowledge base in the area of specialization or has potential to bring about positive change in education. Some applicants from this group will be invited to interview.
The purpose of the interview is to confirm that the candidate can communicate effectively, can demonstrate the skills described in the application materials, and has potential for contributing to the chosen area of study or research. Specifically, interviewers are looking for someone who is able to convince the committee that he or she 1) has a valuable project and will implement it successfully, 2) will introduce positive change in education or in their areas of specialization, and 3) will represent Ukraine in a positive way.
The interview tests self-confidence and ability to handle stress and pressure. During the interview, candidates will be asked to defend statements they made in the application materials. Candidates should be prepared to discuss authors, books and articles, and theories they mentioned. Interviewers may ask the candidate to explain the study or research subject in detail and to give specific examples. The candidate may be asked how the project will specifically benefit Ukraine or the Ukrainian education system.
Candidates should ALWAYS answer questions truthfully, clearly and in a way that is easy to understand, without using specific terminology. It is acceptable to admit not knowing the answer to a specific question. Candidates should ask for clarification if the question is not clear or if they feel the question is too general. Candidates who avoid answering difficult questions by talking about something else will fail the interview.
The interview process allows the candidate to “sell” himself or herself as a potential “ambassador” who will create a positive impression of Ukraine in the American academic, education or professional communities. In addition to the skills and competencies already mentioned, the interview will test:
- Ability to demonstrate academic maturity and self-knowledge
- Ability to handle difficult questions and to think in the “hot seat”
- Good English communication skills
- Diplomatic skills and ability to create positive PR for Ukraine
- Ability to establish rapport and working relationships in groups
- Dedication to the subject, commitment to the study or research, and passion for education.
There are three things to keep in mind as you prepare for your fellowship interview:
1. Know your Application Thoroughly
2. Stay on Message
3. Be Yourself
2. Stay on Message
3. Be Yourself
Know your Application Thoroughly
The majority of the interview will focus on information that was in your fellowship application. This includes your research proposal, personal statement, transcripts, resume and anything else that was included. Be ready to dive into your proposal in depth. If you did a research proposal make sure you can go deeper into the issues than what is included in your proposal, and also be ready to defend the research you have done. Before your interview, talk to your professors, ask them to help you anticipate where questions may come up. Develop a list of questions that may come up in the interview and practice answering them. If your proposal included a personal statement, be sure you remember what you said in that statement.
Stick to the vision, goals, and narrative you outlined in that statement, and be ready to expand on how the vision of who you are and what you want to become has played into other areas of your life. Always be prepared to answer questions regarding jobs or activities listed on your resume, as well as any classes that may appear on your transcript.
Stay on Message
Before your interview, pick three things about yourself that you want the fellowship committee members to have burned into their brain. It should be something about who you are, what you want to do, and how this fits into the mission and goals of the fellowship you are applying for. Try to bring whatever you are talking about back to the core: you, the fellowship, and how you are meant to be together.
Above all, relax and enjoy the process. Be open and honest about who you are and what you want to accomplish. Be confident in your proposal; at this stage you've put a lot of thought, sweat, and tears into your project, and you should be proud of what you've produced. Finally, be confident in yourself; you've put an incredible amount of work into getting this far, and you have earned the opportunity to be in front of the committee. So enjoy it.