by Beckie Irvin
When I interviewed for the Terry Foundation Scholarship in the spring of 2013, I was proactive about preparing. When my interview arrived, I was confident I had prepped well and I walked out of the room knowing I had given everything I had to offer. I would soon learn a thirty-minute interview would change the course of my life. It was a wonderful feeling knowing that regardless of the outcome, I had done my absolute best. Below are five tips I would give to a Terry interviewee.
1. Learn about the Terry Foundation.
When I found out I had moved to the interview round of the Terry Scholar application process, I did not know anyone that was a Terry (if I had, I would have asked them a million questions about the Foundation). Since I did not know anyone I read over the Terry Foundation website. I read the Terry annual from cover to cover. I took time to learn the Foundation’s history and its values. This information would prove useful in my interview.
2. Anticipate what questions the interview panel will ask.
In the weeks leading up to my interview, I tried to anticipate what types of questions and subjects the Foundation would ask me about. I had answers prepared for questions like, “What does leadership mean to you?” Anticipating questions and preparing answers ahead of time helped me organize my ideas and prevented me from hesitating or fumbling for answers.
Additionally, my mom would ask me “behavioral interview questions” and I would practice articulating my answers to her. An example of a behavioral interview question is, “Tell me about a time your team failed. What was your role in the problem?” These types of questions can make you want to cry if you are not prepared. Behavioral questions often require an interviewee to be vulnerable and honest. With that being said, one should not be intimidated. The Foundation (or any interviewer) wants to see if you act intentionally and learn from mistakes. If you get asked a behavioral question, relax. Be honest and tell the Foundation how you grew from your behavior.
3. Re-read your application and essays.
Thirty minutes before I interviewed for the Terry Scholarship, I re-read my essays. Much time had passed since I initially applied and I had forgotten what I wrote. It felt good to reference my essays in my interview, and I believe it demonstrated how seriously I was taking my opportunity to interview.
One thing I did not do was read over my application. I wish I had done this because the Foundation asked me questions about my family’s estimated contribution and I had trouble recalling what my application said.
4. Dress your best.
The Terry Foundation does not want its applicants to buy new clothes for the interviews, and (even if you can afford it) you probably do not need to. Whatever is in your closet and is your best is what you should wear. To my interview I wore a conservative beige dress with a black cardigan, panty hose and black heels. (If you are going to wear heels, make sure you are comfortable walking in them. If not, stick with flats.) It was simple and professional. It was my best and I already owned all of it.
Gentlemen, wear a suit and a tie if you have one. If you do not, wear your nicest pants and collared shirt. Be sure to iron out the wrinkles!
I woke up with plenty of time to shower, fix my hair and do my makeup. Again, I opted for simple straight hair and natural makeup, and it was a good choice. I had a lite breakfast and I was off to my interview with plenty of time to spare.
5. Answer confidently and talk a lot.
It is good to be nervous about interviewing with the Terry Foundation. Nerves mean you care, but is it possible to be nervous and confident? Yes! I was nervous, but I felt prepared. When I sat down in front of the panel, I sat up tall and I relaxed.
Robert Parker – you will meet him soon – told me to “talk a lot” and I took his advice to heart. When the panel asked me a question, I answered and I elaborated. For example, when I was asked what “success” meant to me, I gave a 1-2 sentence answer, followed by an example of a time I felt successful, and finished by reiterating my original answer.
The Terry Interview is not something to take lightly, and it is possible to feel confident and prepared. This may seem like a lot to do, but a few hours on the weekend will get you farther than you think. I can attest, it is worth your time and energy to feel like you gave your best in your interview.