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Preparing for the Interview

An interview for a scholarship or for graduate or professional school can be a very significant part of your application. Your ability to convey your desire for graduate/research or professional training and knowledge of the field can boost your chances for admission. Interviews come in many forms: one-on-one, group interview, visit weekend, panel interview or phone interview.

You can improve your interviewing ability by preparing thoroughly for the interview process. We provide suggestions for each part of the interview below.

Before

  • Do plenty of background research on the scholarship or program and the individual interviewers (if you know them). Generally there will be several interviewers on the committee.
  • Network with faculty at Miami who might be able to offer suggestions. Read papers from researchers who you are interested in working with at your chosen graduate program. Schedule mock interviews with faculty or other advisors.
  • Be prepared to discuss your goals and how the scholarship can help you attain your goals. Be prepared to provide 4 or 5 reasons why you want to be in that program when asked.
  • Anticipate questions about any weak points in your application (grades, test scores, etc.). Formulate answers to the weaknesses in terms of how you have addressed them. Avoid making excuses!
  • Take time to go over your major research or other leadership projects, including the background, results and data interpretation as well as challenges you faced and how you addressed them.
  • Review your application and statement of purpose ahead of time so that your answers in the interview are consistent with the material you submitted.
  • Know something about what is going on in the U.S. and the world. Part of an interview may deal with current events, especially those related to your field of study.
  • Have in mind a book that is important to you and someone who has influenced you (this comes in more handy than you think).

Day of

  • Dress nicely and formally to show that you are professional and pay attention to detail. Turn off your cell phone.
  • Always be on time.
  • Bring copies of your C.V. or other significant work (papers, publications, portfolio).
  • Show respect to everyone affiliated with the scholarship or program.
  • Demonstrate that you are serious about graduate and professional work and that you are aware of the dedication required.
  • Make eye contact with your interviewers. Make sure you make eye contact with all of the interviewers present. Smile from time to time.
  • Don’t respond to questions with only a “yes” or “no.” Also try to respond with specific or concrete information rather than vague generalities.
  • Understand that some of the interviewers may not have read all of your materials. So find a way to politely and subtly mention your strengths.
  • Bring up your strengths, but try to strike a balance between self-confidence and humility.
  • Ask insightful questions about the program and faculty’s research.
  • Try to enjoy the process and concentrate on each question at hand. Listen carefully to the questions, and you will get clues about what they are looking for.
  • Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a question.
  • Pause and reflect silently if an unexpected question comes your way. It’s also okay to say you don’t know.
  • Be prepared to ask meaningful questions about the scholarship or the program at the end of the interview. Be sure that the questions are not obvious ones or ones that could be addressed by reviewing the website.
  • Realize that even when you are not in a formal interview, you are still under scrutiny. Act your best throughout the entire time you are there—even during cocktail parties or other social settings. Be especially courteous to staff members and other applicants or students.

After

  • Send a thank you note to the program director or any contact that you had during the interview visit.
  • Send a thank you to any Miami faculty who wrote you letters of recommendation.
  • Remain optimistic. Use each interview experience to prepare for future interviews.

Additional Reading

The following are two additional resources for interviewing: