Scholarship interviews can be nerve-wrecking. And if you know that the interview will be held in a group, the knowledge that you will be judged against your peers side-by-side can put added pressure.
Although navigating through a group interview can be tricky, especially if you have a quieter personality, there’s no reason for you to treat a group interview any different.
Here are five essential tips to help you ace that scholarship group interview!
1) Preparation is key
Group interviews are usually intended to test your communication skills and your ability to work in a team. You should expect group discussions and problem-solving exercises, where observers or facilitators will evaluate you based on how you interact with others, your ability to demonstrate your skills and speak up in a crowd and solve problems under pressure.
With that in mind, prepare for the group interview just as how you would for a one-on-one interview — practise answering typical interview questions, research about the scholarship provider and read up on current affairs.
You will likely be asked to introduce yourself to the group, so make sure you prepare your answer beforehand. Don’t ramble on about your dozens of achievements, but don’t say, “there’s nothing very interesting about me” either. Keep it short and engaging, and speak confidently.
If you are given a topic beforehand (lucky you!), research the topic thoroughly and make sure you have an opinion. There is a possibility that there is no right or wrong answer; how you arrived at your answer is more important than the answer itself.
2) Be aware of your behaviour all the time
Your interactions with your peers will be watched very closely by facilitators, so make sure you are aware of your behaviour and body language all the time.
Always sit up straight and make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. Direct your pitch at everyone, and try not to trail off once you’ve started speaking. Make sure you pay attention to what’s going on during the discussion, and use body language to show that you are engaged, even when you’re not speaking. Lean forward and nod if you agree, and don’t show signs of boredom.
If a thought or idea pops into your head and someone is still speaking, quickly scribble it down instead of interrupting. Don’t talk over a person if the discussion gets heated, but don’t clam up either if someone gets too aggressive. Speak calmly and confidently at all times, even if you are wrecked with nerves on the inside.
If you’re in doubt or lack confidence, keep chanting the mantra, “Fake it till you make it!”
3) Be inclusive
Many scholarship providers look for leadership qualities, and one of the most important characteristic of being a leader is the ability to ensure everyone’s opinions are heard, not just your own. In group interviews, listening in very important!
With that in mind, try getting everyone in the group to be involved in the discussion or task, and don’t dominate the conversation all the time. It is important that you are respectful of everyone’s ideas and thoughts, and not dismiss them even if you think it is off-point and irrelevant. If you are unclear about what they are trying to say, encourage them to give examples or elaborate on their points.
For example, you could ask them to clarify by saying, “Did you mean…” or maybe prompt them by asking, “Could you give some examples?”
Also, try making friends with a few of the candidates before the interview starts. Not only can this help with your nerves, you may also be more comfortable around them during the group interview and can help each other out during the discussion.
4) Speak with a purpose
One of the biggest challenges about being in a group interview is that the answers or comments that other candidates give may be very similar to yours.
Faced with such a situation, you may be tempted to just repeat whatever they’ve mentioned, or ramble on without adding much to the conversation. Try your best not to do so. Instead, focus on moving the discussion forward by sharing examples or related points.
For example, you could say, “I agree with Lisa’s point earlier that proficiency in English is important to decrease graduate unemployment. With many companies conducting their business in English, employers need graduates who can communicate with clients effectively.”
When coming up with examples, you can also try drawing from your own experience too.
Continuing on from the previous example, think about the last time you had a bad experience with a company whose employees were unable converse well in English. How did that affect your perception of the company? Perhaps it led to a huge miscommunication, and you are now no longer a customer of that company.
Remember that you should not speak for the sake of speaking — use facts, figures and everyday examples to explain and support your points.
5) But don’t forget to be yourself
Cliche as it may sound, it is really important that you be yourself.
When you’re put in a group setting with other candidates, you may feel the pressure to be outspoken and bold. And in the effort to assert yourself, you may inadvertantly end up going overboard and come across as overly aggressive.
Interviewers are looking for authenticity, so if you try too hard, it will show.
Be honest and genuine, and show the interviewers your personality by giving sincere answers, not canned answers or answers you think they want to hear. It’s one thing to come to the interview prepared. What you want to avoid is being stiff and looking like you’re overly rehearsed.
So don’t be afraid to be yourself!