Stand Out in Interviews

Four students stand together in front of a wall of windows.

Destiny Diaz (recipient), Ty Santiago (honorable mention), Hailie Suk (recipient) and Anthony Taboni (honorable mention)—2019 National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships.

Interviewing, like most skills, becomes easier (and you will become better) with practice. It is important to remember that what you say is only one small piece of how you will be perceived by the interviewers and you should dedicate time to practice the "total package".

Prepare for the Interview

  • Know about the award. You should know the history, goals and mission of your fellowship and how you and your work fit in.
  • Review your application. Most of the interview questions will likely be generated based on what you wrote in your application and essay(s).
  • Be a well-informed citizen. Read broadly about issues in the news, both in the U.S. and abroad, and keep up with current events. It is not uncommon to be asked to discuss links between your research interests and larger social and political concerns.
  • Be interested. Always come prepared with additional questions.


Need help?

Schedule an appointment to meet with us where we will review your application materials and offer professional guidance.

Practice, Practice, Practice

  • Hold a mock-interview. For the most prestigious awards (e.g., Rhodes Scholarship, Marshall Scholarship, Harry S. Truman Scholarship) the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships will set up mock-interviews. Most finalists for these awards will attend four mock-interviews, all of which will be filmed for you to review.
  • Brush up on your phone skills. The Office of Fellowships and Scholarships can develop a set of questions to help you prepare for phone interviews.
  • Utilize online tools. As a UB student, you have free access to Big Interview's resources for learning and practicing interview skills when you sign up using your UB email address.
  • Seek additional help. Reach out to friends, family and mentors for additional help with interviews. Practicing your interview with someone you trust will gain you honest feedback to help you improve.

Suit Up and Captivate Your Audience

Mastering Your Non-Verbal language

We've all heard the saying "you will never get a second chance to make a first impression." You have just moments to make your first impression, so make it count.

  • Dress to impress. Professional, conservative dress is most appropriate. Make sure your clothes are freshly laundered with no stains, discoloration, holes or animal fur. Pay attention to the cleanliness of your shoes and accessories as well.
  • Don't forget personal hygiene. It is important to have recently showered and maintain tidy hair and good oral hygiene.
  • Arrive early. Plan to arrive 15 minutes early. Unexpected delays may happen and a late arrival is unprofessional.
  • Body language speaks volumes. Remember to make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, maintain good posture and most importantly, smile.
  • Stay engaged and focused. Do not fiddle with your hair or a pen.

Elevate Your Response

  • Don't sound scripted. While it is important to think about questions you may be asked and practice your responses ahead of time, it is imperative that you do not sound scripted (even if you are). Your answers must sound genuine and real.
  • Enunciate your words and communicate clearly. Be sure that you are speaking with the proper volume, speed and tone.
  • Repeat their name. Repeating a person's name when you are introduced will help you remember their name. ("It's very nice to meet you Dr. Clarke.")
  • Listen to what the interviewer(s) ask (or say), without interruption. After they have finished speaking you may ask questions or respond.
  • Keep to the point and answer questions completely. It is important that you do not ramble on or get off topic while answering the question thoroughly.
  • Answer all of the questions honestly. If you don't know the answer, rather than skirting the question, just be honest and briefly say that you don't know.
  • Thank the interviewer(s) for their time at the conclusion of the interview.

Additional Resources