10 ways to ROCK the Interview: Tips from YALI Fellows

10 ways to ROCK the Interview: Tips from YALI Fellows

Did you apply for the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship or Regional Leadership Center? Chances are that you might be called for an interview soon. These 10 tips from some fellows will be help.

Now that you have scaled through the rigorous application process, you are faced with the next hurdle – the Interview. By shortlisting you for an interview, it is safe to say that you put in a strong application and the people believe in you. They are now giving you the chance to prove that you are among the best candidates to be selected for the YALI Mandela Washington Fellowship (MWF) or Regional Leadership Center (RLC).

For me, this is the time when anxiety gives way to confidence and nervousness gives way to courage. This is because, no one makes it to this point by mistake or chance. So this is not the time to be nervous or overly anxious. This is the time to congratulate yourself for the little victory thus far and prepare to portray yourself confidently as a strong candidate as demonstrated in your application.

Here are a few tips I and six other Fellows found useful. Hope they help you too.

1. Get ready with your Elevator Pitch:
One of the most common questions asked at interviews is “Who are you?” or “Tell us a little more about what you do.” At this point, you want to say a line or two about yourself and the work you do. For example, whenever I am asked, I say something like “I’m a social entrepreneur and educator working actively in the education and youth development sector. My passion is to promote access to quality education and growth opportunities for young people. Through my initiatives, iKapture Networks and Opportunity Desk, I have reached thousands of youth who are now empowered and actively engaged in their communities.” Please note that you don’t have to memorize your response. Let it flow naturally. – Grace Ihejiamaizu from Nigeria (MWF 2016)

2. Be natural, show passion and enthusiasm for your work.
The Fellowship interviewer wants to see that you exude the same level of passion for the work you do as you have exhibited in your application. Be relaxed and answer the questions comfortably, each time, taking a deep breath and sitting upright. You don’t want to sound like you are under pressure or lying. This is not the time to fake your accents. Your goal is to speak confidently and effortlessly too. – Grace Ihejiamaizu

3. Don’t be Modest:
Present your organization highly and project the impact that your work does to the community. Also indicate clearly why being selected as a Fellow will amplify your activities and hence create more positive impact in the community. – Anne Eboso Okongo from Kenya (MWF)

4. Think about what you will contribute:
When preparing for my MWF interview, I thought a lot about the “Juby” brand and what I have to offer as an individual. I also thought about how my project sets me apart from other applicants – it’s unique features and what impact it will make in my country’s economy and community. I read my current affairs as well to determine how what I was doing related with the bigger picture of what is happening in my country and the world at large. I thought of what solutions I wanted to bring to the table. – Juby Peacock from Botswana (MWF)

5. Be consistent with your story:
“When they ask you to tell them what you’ve done, they are asking based on what you have written. This is not the time to get excited and share stories of all the old and new projects you are working on. Stick to one story. Be consistent with it.” – Samuel T Segun from Nigeria (RLC)

I’ll add that no matter the question thrown at you, be sure to tailor your answer towards the specific project you wrote about in your application.

6. Listen more:
There’s no amount of accomplishment that can guarantee you an opportunity such as the Mandela Washington Fellowship and Regional Leadership Center. But, “people listen to people who listen.” If you are ready to become a changemaker, listening more especially in an interview helps you to relax and gain confidence. You avoid simple mistakes people make when they talk much. In listening, your message is simple – that you don’t have it all figured out but you are ready to learn and apply, and that’s more like it! – Levit Nudi from Kenya (MWF)

7. Know what you are doing and how it applies to the big picture:
How is your work helping you take leadership to solve a larger challenge? For example, if you are a teacher, farmer or nurse, how does your work contribute to resolving a global challenge? What are the outcomes that you already have and the outcomes you anticipate? The Fellowship is an investment, so they want to know what the outcome of their investment will be. Be bold to let them know how you will reach more people and make more impact. – Emeka Ossai from Nigeria (MWF)

8. Be on time:
You are now fully prepared, and you don’t want to screw up everything by arriving late for your interview, even by a minute. It’s your interview day and the devil is not happy – today is the day he wants to bring many unfortunate incidences that will turn out to be excuses for not arriving early. You can avoid that trap by rising early and planning to arrive the venue at least 30 minutes before your interview time. – Grace Ihejiamaizu


9. Be relaxed:
Don’t process too many things while you’re there. Try to be present as much as possible. Enjoy the moment and read the body language of your interviewers. You can tell when they are interested in learning more or when they don’t seem to understand and need you to clarify. Remember that they are also reading your body language as well. You want to pass across the right message, not seeming nervous or restless. – Victoria Ibiwoye from Nigeria (RLC)

10. Pray, hope and believe.
Do not underestimate the power of these especially if you have taken note of the points above. – Grace Ihejiamaizu

These tips are not exhaustive but they can get you ready to ROCK that interview! Also, don’t panic if you are yet to be invited for an Interview. The notification timeline runs into February 2017.