Ace that interview!

Here are some tips to help you ace that interview and clinch the scholarship
Ace that interview!
Published 09 Jun 2017

Here are some tips to help you ace that interview and clinch the scholarship

Prepare for the interview.
Start with some soul searching. Do your research. A good place to start is in your school. Speak to the career counselors there. They would have information about the various types of scholarships and career options. Some even have psychometric tests that might point you in the right direction.

Look out for career days in your school. Many organizations like that Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) give talks about what they do and the scholarships available. Often, scholars serving their bond are invited to speak. Seize the opportunity to ask them questions about the scholarship, career prospects and what it is like to work in that organization.

Research the scholarships.
Check out the organizations' websites, where you and your parents can get more details about the different scholarships available, and the terms and conditions of the awards.

For example, the Public Service Commission websites that might be of interest. You can also email the relevant officers with your queries. Or you can do down to the organizations' scholarship centres to speak with the scholarship officers personally.

Get a place in the university of your choice.
Do your research and a place in the university you want to attend. Information on the universities can be found in school libraries, the National Library and the British Council. Do your Scholastic Assessment Tests, or SATs, for American universities, and send in your Universities and Colleges Admission Service, or UCAS forms for the British universities. Getting a place in the university proves that you are interested in the subject.

What should you consider before applying for a scholarship?
You must yourself in the industry. For the SAF scholarships, for example, you must be cut out for a life in the military - to take orders and to take command.

Ask yourself if you have the personality for that industry. If you are applying or a Singapore Tourism Board scholarships on the other hand, you must like tourism, people and be passionate about Singapore.

It also helps to talk to people in the industry. Ask yourself if you are willing to commit yourself to it because scholarships come with bonds averaging 4 to 6 years.

Are you scholarship material?
Scholarship material equals a well rounded person. There are 2 things panels look at before they meet you. - your grades and your ECA achievement. But for the Shell-NAC scholarship, the panel looks out for creative potential.

Academic results help, but the panel understands that a creative person might not excel academically.

Make your application stand out
Scholarship application forms are pretty standard. But it helps to have a good cover to introduce yourself.

Take pains to talk about your ECA.
If the space is too small, type out a page describing the activities that you have been involved in. your level of participation in ECA and other activities will reveal a lot about your character, leadership abilities and interests.

Attach a smart photo of yourself. But no glamour shots please!


Rehearse some common interview questions that you may encounter, such as: Why this scholarship? How will you contribute to the industry? What are your aims and goals in life? What are your career aspirations?

Think about some issues faced by that industry and be prepared to discuss them. Think about some issues you feel strongly about. "In Singapore Armed Forces scholarship interview, you are given a chance to talk about a topic of your choice. This is an opportunity for you to show the panel the depth of your thinking," said a spokesman from the Mindef Scholarship Centre.

Why you? Be prepared to sell yourself. Consider what makes you different from the applicants.

Psych yourself up
The prospect of meeting the interview panel can be intimidating. It helps to psych yourself up. Visualize the interview and the panel, so don't clam up on the actual day. Besides grades and ECA records, the interview panel looks for: Self-confidence, maturity of thought, leadership abilities, passion, commitment and depth of knowledge.

Common mistakes
The most common mistake in the interview is the lack of preparation. Don't go for the interview resting on your laurels. Be prepared. Do your homework. Check out the organization's websites, as that usually gives an idea of what the organization is about and where it is heading.

There are usually several rounds of interviews. You might be able to bluff your way through the first round, but in subsequent rounds, in-depth questions will be asked, so you have to know what you are talking about.

"Be genuine. It is okay to say I don't know. The panel is quite open, and will change the topic to something you are more comfortable with," said a human resource manager at Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

"Be yourself. Be comfortable and be able to talk about yourself. Let your personality come through," said a spokesman form the National Arts Council (NAC).

Other tests
Besides facing a panel, some organizations require you to work in groups. This is to observe how you function in a team. Are you a team player? Do you have leadership qualities?

"In the third and final of the interview for the STB scholarship, applicants are asked to do a presentation," said the STB manager.

For the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) scholarship, after written tests to determine language ability, maturity and analytical ability, potential scholars need to work as a hands-on reporter in the newsroom for 2 months. "This is a good opportunity for both parties to decide if they are suited for journalism," said a human resource manager from SPH.

For an NAC scholarship, applicants have to do a portfolio presentation. "Good documentation is very important. Applicants have to submit photos, videos, sketches and CD-ROMs depending on the field they are in," said the NAC spokesman.

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