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The Personal Interview - The Most Common Types of Questions in an Interview with Funding Institutions

Interviews with foundations can run in very different ways because of the various eligibility criteria. However, all organisations have one thing in common: they want to learn something about you, your life, and your motivations. In this article you will learn what kind of questions you can expect at interviews.
Be prepared for your interview
Be prepared for your interview

After applying for a scholarships and being successfully selected normally a personal interview follows. Interviews are conducted in many different ways. Some interviewers use pre-written questions so they can directly compare answers. Others adopt a more conversational approach in order to get a better understanding of the candidates’ personalities.

Describe your own CV

You will often be asked to summarise your CV. This question can be asked in many different ways. For example, the interviewer could ask: “Tell me a bit about yourself”. You should focus on your experience and achievements to date when asked this question.

You should start with your degree. Talk about what you achieved, and when you received it. Of course you won’t have time to tell your whole life story. Instead you should focus on the most important milestones. Highlight areas of your CV that are relevant to the objectives of the organisation to which you are applying. And give your interviewer time to ask questions about what you are saying.

Why you should get the scholarship

Another question that is frequently asked is why you should receive the scholarship, so you should be prepared for this question. Your answer should highlight your strengths, but should not make a direct comparison with other candidates. For example, don’t say you are the most socially committed candidate. Instead show your experience in this field. The strengths that you highlight should be in the order of importance to the scholarship. You should avoid vacuous statements though. Instead try to explain each of them with a few examples.

Reflect the views of the organisation

Many organisations and funding institutions have a clear focus. For example, they might be politically oriented so an interviewer might ask you about your political position. You won’t normally be asked to comment directly about the party, but political issues can be discussed.

Current topics in the newspapers

Many interviewers ask questions about topical stories in the news. When doing this they are trying to find out if you're interested in the events of the day, and if you can argue clearly and structurally. This helps them learn something about your personality. So make sure you know what is happening in the news so you can engage in this sort of discussion. It is embarrassing if you only learn about a particular topic during the interview.

Stand by your strengths and weaknesses

Interviewers like to learn about your strengths and weaknesses so they can see whether you are able to judge realistically. Of course you will want to leave a positive impression so you should focus on your strengths. But make sure you include weaknesses as well as you don’t want to be perceived as being unable to accept criticism. And make sure they are genuine weaknesses.

You should first list three strengths with examples. Then you can name your weaknesses, although make sure they have little value to the selection criteria for the scholarship. It is best to say that this was primarily a weakness in the past which you have worked on. And explain what you have learned from this weakness. But avoid the most common mistakes.

Goals for the future

You will often be asked about your future plans. Your interviewer wants to see how determined you are, and they want to assess your decision making abilities. Do not be uncertain or say that you haven’t thought about it yet. If you are not sure you should still give some options. And highlight the one that you are most keen on.

Do you have any questions?

Many interviewers end with asking if you have any questions. Saying no is not a good answer. This can leave an impression that you don’t care, or that you are not prepared. So try to prepare some questions that you can ask at the end of your interview.