A few weeks ago I wrote a column about preparing for interviews. After talking to a few people who have gone through the process, I realize that my advice needs some more detail. Here are some specific questions that you might expect in college, MBA or scholarship interviews.
What are your strength and weaknesses?/what words would people use to describe you?/ what about you is unique?
These are all variations on the same question. And each of them is aimed at discovering how well you know yourself and what kind of introspection you have done. Of course whatever answer you give, you will need to expand on it. If you say your strength is “motivating others,” then you will need to give an example of an occasion where you convinced a group of people to do something.
Who do you admire/who would you like to meet, living or dead?
Recently an applicant was asked this question and was taken off guard. He said that he really admired one of his friends, but he didn’t have a ready reason why. Even if you choose an obvious figure like Mahatma Gandhi, you need to explain your answer; Gandhi is an admirable figure for a variety of reasons, but you should know why he inspires you or why you would want to meet him.
What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?
There is obviously no right answer to this question. The interviewer is basically trying to figure out if you can substantiate your opinions. Whatever topic you choose, you should be able to thoroughly discuss the problem and potential solutions. If you say ‘global poverty’ is the biggest problem you should have some statistics about the growth of poverty in the past and the future, the causes and possible remedies, in order to convey why you think the topic is important.
What will you miss most about India? What do you look forward to in the US/UK/etc.
This is a bit of a unique question, but someone was asked it recently, so I thought I would put it in here. The point of this question is to understand how well you have thought through the big move you are about to make. And to tell what you will miss (e.g. home cooked meals, your family, auto rickshaw rides) should be presented in the context of how you will adjust without it. You can say, for example, “I will really miss Mumbai’s colorful festivals, but I am excited to partake in America’s traditional Thanksgiving feast.” This shows that while you know what you’re giving up, you also know the opportunities awaiting you.
What do you plan to do with your education/where do you see yourself in 10 years?
For a scholarship interview, this is an important question. Depending on the type of scholarship, the interviewer is looking for someone who will use the aid to make an impact. And if the scholarship is for a particular field (e.g. engineering) the answer should reflect the achievements that the applicant plans to make within that area. Colleges are looking to reward students who have a sense of who they are and the difference they can make in the world. Your answer here should be confident and directed.
These are just some examples of possible questions and their answers. Preparing for these and other basic questions, plus knowing your resume will put you a long way toward a successful interview.