Phone interview for a scholarship
June 22, 2010 4:44 AM   Subscribe

What should I do to prepare for a (scholarship) telephone interview?

I'm a finalist for a graduate scholarship - yay! Now they're giving phone interviews.

My interview is scheduled for two days from now (I just found out), and I'd really like to be ready for it. I've never done anything like this before: never had a scholarship interview, and never had a phone interview. I'm not good on the phone - I have trouble understanding things and I'm bad at thinking on my feet. I also have some trouble speaking with people I don't know.

What sorts of questions would they be likely to ask? What information should I have ready?

To throw another wrench into the works, I'm also currently in another country with less-than-stellar phone reception. I've called family and friends back home, and they've called me, but sometimes it takes several times to connect and sometimes the call gets dropped. How do I handle this gracefully?

I've tried searching around, but all the questions I find are about job telephone interviews - which are useful, but if anyone has academic-specific advice, all the better.
posted by Gordafarin to Education (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't comment on academics but I recently had a (successful!) phone interview that took 10 minutes to get connected because their system hated my VOIP, no-one in reception knew the direct number to their meeting room and I kept getting routed to an office. Eventually we got connected and all went well. Hell, my baby started crying at the beginning and I still got the job. I was as calm asI could be about the connection issues and I handwaved it a little rather than getting super apologetic/techy.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:01 AM on June 22, 2010

How's your internet reception? Could you get Skype and a Skype-In number in time for the call? It can be tetchy too, but it might be less so than your local POTS.

Otherwise, just warn them, in advance, that you're in wherever you are, and the phone service can be terrible, and ask them for a direct line number where you can call them back if the call drops.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:15 AM on June 22, 2010

Response by poster: Unfortunately in my home, the cell reception is bad but the internet is nonexistent, so Skype et al are not an option.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:23 AM on June 22, 2010

If you can, email the people who will be interviewing you before hand if you expect connection issue. Do you and the interviewer have access to Skype? I know a number of professors who really like it for long-distance conference calls.

I had exactly one phone interview during my grad school applications (as well as a few for jobs), and what surprised me a little (I expected this more from the following onsite visits) was that the interviewer had already read my writing/research sample and had very specific questions about it. On the other hand I had some in-person interviews where people started by asking for a summary of what I'd been working on. So, be prepared for either case.

The hardest thing about phone interviews is that you don't get the kind of body-language cues that tell you when your interviewer is satisfied and you can quit answering the question, or if you've gone off on a tangent. Some people suggest having someone else in the room who you can 'talk' to and watch you in case you ramble. I tended to check in much more than I would in person - asking the interviewer if I'd answered their question, clarifying questions as needed, etc.
posted by heyforfour at 6:27 AM on June 22, 2010

Best answer: Write down a list of questions you think you might be asked. You can look online or ask friends, mentors, supervisors, if you are unsure. Then, practise answering those questions, talking out loud. You may find that there are some answers you have never succinctly spoken about eg "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Also, on the day of the interview, and depending on the time and your schedule, make sure you start talking to warm up your voice beforehand. I had a phone interview at 6am on a Saturday morning - the interviewer was going to be the first person I spoke to that day, so I spent about 20 mins before the call just talking to myself. It worked a charm!
posted by unlaced at 7:05 AM on June 22, 2010

Best answer: I had a scholarship interview about 1.5 years ago (although it was undergraduate) and some of the types of questions they asked were:

- Where do you hope this area of study will lead?
- Why do you want to do that?
- What are some of your academic strengths and weaknesses?
- What do you plan to do to overcome those weaknesses?
- Talk about the process of getting to one of your accomplishments.
- Other than school/career, what do you hope to get out life?
- What are some of your hobbies/extracurriculars?
- How have those helped/hindered/affected your academic career?

I would have the application originally submitted on hand (just to make sure any details you talk about match perfectly to what is in front of them). Have a list of awards you've won and clubs/organizations you've been a part of. Don't be afraid to refer to those lists when talking. "oh well when I was writing the paper that won that award, I noticed that I have a tendency to..." blah blah blah.

Good Luck!
posted by magnetsphere at 7:57 AM on June 22, 2010

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