Adapted from

These tips cover some common mistakes and some of the factors that come into play. You hopefully already know many of the items mentioned here. Just remember:

  • Nobody can do all these things perfectly.
  • Every conversation is different. Read the moment.
  • You can improve your skills through practice and reflection.




  • Bring your ID and whatever the panel has asked you to bring.
  • Pack everything you need. Print a good travel checklist from the web if necessary.
  • Scout the location well ahead if possible.
  • Buy/download a map well ahead otherwise.
  • Build flextime into your travel schedule. Allow for the unexpected.
  • Arrive a few minutes early.


  • Dress suitably for the interview. Nice. Conservative. Professional.
  • Consider packing two options for clothing.
  • Your clothes should feel comfortable.
  • Test drive them prior to the day.
  • Have them cleaned and pressed.
  • Polish your shoes and belt.
  • Eat two to four hours before you arrive. Moderate. Healthy.
  • Consider taking an early walk.
  • Bladder status . . . empty when you arrive.
  • Take some slow deep breaths before you enter. Discreetly.


  • Know thyself.
  • Bring a copy of your application. Review what they know about thyself.
  • Know the scholarship. Know the organization that gives the award.
  • Read the newspaper that morning.
  • Look forward to the challenge of difficult questions.
  • Visualize a confident and comfortable meeting.




  • Smile when you enter and when you leave. At least.
  • Make eye contact. Spread it around evenly.
  • Show an interest. Let them see an engaged candidate.


  • Do not swivel just because your chair does.
  • Sit erect even if your chair leans back.
  • Lean slightly forward to communicate interest.
  • Pull up to the table when you sit down. The table is the playing field.
  • Never give a judge your shoulder.


  • Keep them away from your face.
  • Avoid repeated tics like picking at the edge of the table.
  • Let them out of your lap. Hidden hands seem tentative.
  • Some gesturing: not bad. Makes you seem animated.
  • Same gesture over and over again: bad. Makes you seem automated.
  • Shake hands with a firm grip. Present your hand with confidence.
  • The gesture is incomplete unless you smile and make eye contact.


  • Stay focused but relax . . . interviews are not lethal.
  • More deep breaths if the jitters hit you.




  • Make sure you are clearly heard. Articulate carefully. Project across the room.
  • Avoid jargon and slang.
  • No chewing gum.
  • Budget the time you spend on any single answer.
  • Pause to collect your thoughts as needed. Keep your brain ahead of your mouth.


  • Listen carefully to each question.
  • Follow general statements with concrete examples. Particulars. Details. Instances.
  • Realize when you have no more to say. Dead air beats rambling.
  • Show respect for opposing views as you articulate your own.
  • Have an introductory or concluding comment ready. Read the situation if asked for one.
  • Admit it if you don’t know an answer. Provide the facts or context that you do know.
  • Reveal your expertise and knowledge.
  • Reveal what you are passionate about.


  • Move on if you botch an answer.
  • Almost all questions are an invitation to talk. Yes or No is insufficient.
  • Filter your strengths through your experience and goals. No bragging.
  • Don’t try to guess what the judges want to hear. Show them how you think.
  • Ask for clarification if the question is unclear or too broad.
  • Try not to introduce topics about which you are unprepared to talk.
  • Do not ask the judges topical questions. It eats your time if they answer.


  • Thank the judges for the opportunity to talk with them.
  • Show your positive side.
  • Make it feel more like a discussion. Less like an oral exam.
  • The judges want to get to know you through the discussion. Let them.
  • Have the confidence to sound as sharp and insightful as you really are.