By Olanrewaju Gideon
Having demonstrated the capacity and potential to be change makers, opinion formers and policy influencers in their home countries, 1650 passionate dreamers cum leaders from 160 countries made it to the United Kingdom to pursue their dreams through a yearlong academic engagement in universities across the country for the 2017/2018 session. Described by Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, as “the crème de la crème”, these successful 2.6% of a pool of 65,000 applications are the ‘2017/2018 Chevening Scholars’ being sponsored through the Chevening Scholarship, an international awards scheme, funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) which is aimed at developing global leaders.
Applications into the 2018/2019 Session already advanced into the interview stages globally and as a current Chevening Scholar, I specially congratulate many who have made the cut thus far. While this is no time to rest on the laurels yet, now is the moment to gather enough momentum to burst through the barricades and claim your spot within the ranks of the next prestigious Chevening Cohort. I have reflected on the processes that helped me in scaling through the Interview, and I am glad to share with you these 7 fundamental tips to get you prepared for the final showdown.
A. Ahead of the Chevening Interview
1. Be PREPARED to validate your worthiness.
The Chevening Interview process as a competency-based exercise is designed to carefully screen every applicant on their professional accomplishments and leadership potential as a metric for worthiness. You will be assessed based on the same questions of the first application process and therefore, you need to re-familiarise yourself with the content and context of your essays. However, with this physical presentation of your candidature, you have the opportunity to support your written application with more factual information which can be achieved using the People-Timeline-Places) approach. This means you can mention names of people, dates as well as places not earlier mentioned in your essays, to further buttress your inspiring stories. This approach aids originality, enabling you to sound natural while you own and share your story. Remember, everyone that was shortlisted deserves a chance, the only connecting dot is the ability to PROVE to the Interview panel that you are worthy of the investment. Adequate preparation will help you leave that indelible mark.
2. Grow your CONFIDENCE through Effective Practice.
The Power of Success starts from within. To excel in your interview, you must grow your confidence from inside out. While you seek to prepare adequately by having the details of your essays at heart, you need to grow the mental capacity to speak with conviction beyond just reciting pre-rehearsed answers to the questions asked.
Get informed about possible questions by researching Chevening Interview Guidance videos on YouTube or Instagram, write out your responses and practise. Set up Mock Interviews with your parents, your friends, your housemates, your colleagues at work and your loved ones. They are in position to help you get better with your verbal presentation skills, body language and grammatical articulation. Simulate Question Answering moments if possible in front of a Mirror. If done rightly and consistently, this will also help you sound natural and give you the ability to elaborate your examples with firm conviction. I am sure you are not ready to lose a great opportunity because you are nervous and rambling with words to describe your own accomplishments. Be proud of yourself, give it your all and the world will be proud of you.
3. Increase your knowledge Bank and Get your FACTS Right.
It is crucial to know that “what you know about the Chevening Scholarship takes you as far as how much you know.” So, come ‘stuffed up” to tell the panel what research you have done. Beyond expanding on your personal statement, you should carry out a detailed research about:
- UK Priority Areas in your Country: This is an important information to equip yourself with as you seek to harness the dividends of a flourishing relationship between the United Kingdom and your country. Therefore, your interests and career aspirations as presented in your essays and now your Interview responses must align with the foreign policy strategies of the UK in your country and this is manifested through the PRIORITY AREAS. For example, the UK Priority Areas in Nigeria as at 2017 are Good Governance, Health, Science and Innovation, Energy and Power Generation, Security and Prosperity. Regardless of the course options you have opted for, ensure your responses emphasize how your home country will benefit from you studying in the UK in relation to these priority areas.
- The Chevening Scholarship: Year established, Strength of the alumni network, names and industry of notable alumni in your country, number of Scholars selected from your country since inception, names of recent scholars you have made contact with if any.
- Course Options: Specific modules and their offerings to your career, key faculty Members and interesting aspects of the course (Field Trips/Internship Placements)
- University Options: Specific ranking in the UK or globally, student societies, social life, campus life, prominent Alumni, Student Union activities.
- United Kingdom: What’s amazing about the country (Culture, Language, Food, History, Role in Global Politics).
4. Be ON TOP of your Game for the D-Day
For and on the Interview Day, you must be emotionally and physically alert with every of your actions. Pay attention to:
- Timing- It is vital for you to be professionally conscious to arrive early at the Interview Venue and avoid situations, foreseen or unforeseen, that may create panic even before entering into the Interview Room. Arriving early helps settle your nerves and helps the Panel to keep on Schedule. You should be in and out of that room within 30-45 minutes (NOT STANDARD).
- Dressing- Let your dressing be influenced by comfortability but strive for an excellent look: professional and calm.
Documents- Amidst all documents to be taken to your interview, your INTERNATIONAL PASSPORT is the most important as it was clearly stated. Other supporting evidences may include Unconditional Offers (Not necessary, if only you have).
B. The Chevening Interview
5. Maintain your composure and ORIGINALITY
The Interview Panel is possibly made up of three or four individuals: a representative of the British High Commission, a Chevening Alumna in your country and a staff from the UK Visa and Immigrations Office. Upon invitation into the room, shake hands with the panellists and identify the Lead Panellist. That person right there is the ‘Lord Temporal and Mental’ of your Chevening Journey at that point in time. Maintain eye contact as firmly as possible, smile and speak slowly but loud enough to be heard. Explain why you feel confident in your ability to compete successfully in the UK’s academic system.
A cup of water will be placed in front of you, don’t hesitate to drink if you are stressed. Drop the “British Accent” purchased from E-Bay at the door and shine your originality with right tenses and gesticulations. Be watchful of your sitting posture/body language throughout the interview session and don’t be too anxious to respond to any question asked. Even though you are mindful of the time, take a brief pause to understand the question, articulate your thoughts and then reproduce them with sincerity in a logical sequence. Do not interrupt any panellist as the case may be and ensure your words are polite and assertive. Never be scared to use your ENERGY.
6. Remain GOLDEN as you maintain your STORYLINE with STRATEGY
Dear Interviewee, remember this INTERVIEW is all about YOU and it is time to shine your light bright and prove YOU are worthy of the investment. To start with, maintain the same excellence you displayed in your leadership and networking essays. ONE or TWO VERY GOOD EXAMPLES-explained clearly and in detail-is often much powerful and better told than giving lots of brief/superficial examples without relevance to your professional achievements or projections.
For both the leadership and networking questions, begin your responses with relevant and captivating punchlines and then proceed to share those examples using the “STARL” (S-SITUATION, T-TASK, A-ACTION, R-RESULTS, L-LESSONS) framework. Ensure your responses stay rich with factual information to show ownership using the People-Timeline-Places) approach. Above all, Consistency is VITAL.
7. Demonstrate PASSION and VISION
This is your golden chance to bring your written application to life. Let your charisma and positive attitude shine along with your concise and clear responses. Your love for country must be expressive as you describe your career plans, both immediate and long term, and how it will benefit your home country. Emphasize how your time in the UK will help you achieve your personal and professional development goals through academic and social activities. Highlight your personal strengths and how you can leverage on those to contribute to the growth and visibility of the Chevening Brand. More importantly, provide multiple evidences that indicate how the Chevening Community will benefit you personally, professionally and your home country upon return.
Lastly, BE YOU and let your words flow with sincerity.
I wish you a successful outing ahead. Ace your interview and AN EXCITING YEAR LIES ahead.
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