It’s been ingrained into our minds from an early age that it’s important to make a positive first impression. This is especially true at a scholarship interview. This is your one chance to make the judges see that you are the perfect person to be awarded their scholarship, and to make them see that, you need to make a great impression from the very beginning.
I’m sure you’ve already heard all the standard advice about what makes a good impression – a firm handshake, eye contact, pleasant demeanor, etc. But making a positive impression goes much further than that. Here’s some advice on how to make a positive first impression:
1. Treat your interviewer like a person. No matter how intimidated you are by the scholarship committee seated before you, remember that they are all just people. Therefore, in addition to acting friendly and personable overall, you should look for opportunities to dedicate time and attention to your interviewer(s).
2. Get to know your interviewer(s). Yes, this interview is about you. The committee is trying to find out as much as they can about you to determine if you’re the right recipient for their scholarship dollars. But, there’s still no need to be completely self-centered. You need to work on making a connection with your interviewer that leaves a positive impression in his/her mind.
3. Be chatty. This needs to be done at the appropriate time in order to be effective, but nearly all interviews begin on a more relaxed tone. This opening chit-chat period is the perfect time to express interest in the person representing the organization. You might ask your interviewer how long he/she’s been working with the company and what he/she enjoys most about their job. Or you can notice a photo in their office and comment on it in a way that builds a personal connection. An example of this is, “I noticed that you have a photo of a border collie on your desk. My aunt has one of those and it is the smartest dog I’ve ever met!” Another important note, is if your interviewer volunteers personal information about themselves, show interest rather than simply brushing it aside.
4. Think beauty pageant. Some other helpful interviewing strategies are the same as the skills a little girl needs to compete in a pre-teen princess beauty pageant – smile a lot, appear confident on the outside no matter what, and if there is more than one person interviewing you, give equal attention to each of the judges.
5. Be positive. You are an enthusiastic and positive person with dreams and goals. The scholarship committee wants to give their dollars to a person who will be a success in life, but who also shows them that they are happy and optimistic. Be sure to make these characteristics shine throughout your interview. You can even extend this practice after the interview is over by sending the organization a brief “Thank You” card.