Chevening Interview: What You Need to Prepare

by retnolestari

February is an exciting month for Chevening scholarship applicants as the Chevening FCDO will announce its applicants who proceed further to the interview stage. The Chevening interview usually will be started in early March, thus, you have about one month to prepare yourself.

From my experience, since there was a gap of nearly three months in between the submission deadline to the interview, I almost forgot the substance of my application. The positive feeling and high energy that I felt during the essay writing process were gone and I knew I should regain the energy back. A scholarship interview is not only about the ability to explain the substance of our application but also about our mental strength.

Thus, in this post, I want to share my experience in preparing myself for the Chevening interview I did in 2018.

How the Chevening interview is different from other scholarship’s interviews?

I had at least 5 scholarship and fellowship interviews in my life. In my opinion, Chevening scholarship interview has its own uniqueness. I feel that the function of the interview is to confirm and clarify all the things that we have written in the essays. All the questions were related to the essays. There were only two or three questions that the answer was out of my essays. I will explain this later on.

Meanwhile, the other scholarship interviews were very difficult to nail. Most of the questions they asked were not related to the essays. They questioned my argumentation, my experience, my study objectives, a detailed situation about the industry I was in and presented their own opinions or based on their research paper to counter-attack my answers. And sometimes, my personal life.

At the Chevening interview, all the panelists were very nice and supportive. They didn’t show an intimidating expression that an interviewer usually shows. They smiled a lot and they genuinely tried to help me to be relaxed so that I could provide the best answers. Out of any scholarship interviews I have experienced, I enjoyed the Chevening interview the most. So, don’t be afraid or worried. They want you to succeed.

You Have Received an Interview Invitation Email, So What Next?

I got my interview invitation email on February 14, 2018. What a nice present for Valentine’s Day. I guess the Chevening FCDO is very romantic 😉

Because I was very excited when I received this email, I only read the first paragraph. I didn’t know that I had to choose the interview schedule. I just realized that I hadn’t booked for any schedule when a Chevening representative reminded me through an email. As a result, I didn’t have any option but to book the only remaining schedule, which was the earliest schedule that day. So, please, read the email carefully.

Chevening interview invitation. I just read the first paragraph :))

Thankfully, early in the morning was the right schedule as I felt fresh and all the interviewers were also fresh. I suggest you take the earliest morning schedule for your interview. If you are confident enough, try to set a high standard for the rest of the interview sessions by performing really well in the first morning session. You can read there are so many articles about how a morning interview has more advantages.

Understand Your Essays

Understanding your essays is a must before you come to the interview event. Read your essays again and again, and feel it! Make the “passion” for your application back. Questioning yourself again:

– Why do you want a scholarship?
– Why should they choose you?
– Why it has to be now?
– What your application is about?

Every time you read your essays, ask yourself, “Why” until there is no answer left.

If you have made a mind mapping prior to writing your essays, see it. Compare it to your essays. If you haven’t created a mind mapping, please do as it will help your brain to structure the answers for the interview questions. Mind mapping is a good simple note that will make you understand your essays without memorizing them.

Read Chevening and Your Chosen Programs’ Website

There is plenty of valuable information on the Chevening website that you can read to enrich your knowledge about Chevening and study in the UK. Read it to help you understand more as it will make you more confident.

Besides the Chevening website, read also Chevening’s Instagram caption post. You will find many short stories about the scholars that can inspire you or help you understand what is that Chevening is looking for.

You might also want to read the websites of the programs you have opted for. Don’t skip the detail as it is very important to make your answer about your study objectives more compelling.

Preparing Your Answer?

Chevening interview questions from year to year are most likely the same. In my opinion, there are core questions and added questions. For the added questions can be varied among interviewees. Sometimes you cannot guess what the questions will be as it tailored to your personal application.

Many people prefer to prepare the answers, write them down, and practice them by self-talk or talking in front of the mirror. Some of the people will try to have a mocking interview.

I chose to not prepare for the answers. I did it on the previous scholarship interview and it ruined me. It made me unconsciously memorizing the answers and when I was nervous, I went blank and failed to answer the question.

If you’re confident about yourself and your application, I believe that it will come naturally from your brain. So, what you need to do is to understand yourself, your application, and prepare your mind.

However, if you feel more comfortable creating a projection of the questions and the answers, do it. But be careful not to memorize it.

Mockup Interview & Impromptu Speech

Meanwhile, a mock-up interview can be very useful. I did it few times with my friends to get feedback on how I should improve the way I answered the questions, not to improve the answers. As, again, I avoid preparing for the answers.

What had helped me even more was the impromptu speech technique I got from a global public speaking club called Toastmaster. In Toastmaster, we learn to quickly answer a question for two minutes. Through this impromptu speech lesson, I build skills in how to use tempo, my breath, conjunction, the water they provide, and phrases to make time to think about an answer in a few seconds.

These are some of the examples that I said and did to make time:

– “Thank you for the question…” My mouth said this but my brain thought about the answer 🙂
– Repeating the question and make it a statement. Such as: “You said that you have led your team of 40 people. Can you tell us what the biggest challenge?” I would say, “Leading 40 people is not easy. There are many challenges..” I said this to let my brain prepared for the answer.
– “Before answering your question, may I have the water?” I used this to answer the most difficult question I didn’t expect.

Practicing an impromptu speech also helped me to control my speaking speed. I talked quite slow to avoid making a mistake or humming as it will be very annoying to the interviewer.

Prepare Your Mental

I realized when I reached the interview stage, it wasn’t only about my application but also my mental readiness. I would suggest you to just be yourself and trust yourself more. When you are invited to the interview stage, it means that on the paper you have the same chance and potential as others. Put in your mind that they are interested to get to know you better so that they’re inviting you to their house. Don’t be very nervous. They like you on the paper, so make them like you in real life. Be a polite and good guest.

How can you do it? When you understand yourself and your application, you just need to relax. Relax is a sign of mental readiness. Of course, there will be a nervous feeling, and that’s alright. The nervousness should come from excitement rather than a fear of failure or a feeling of inferiority.

My suggestion is to stop reading your essays two days prior to the interview. Just read your mind mapping if you want to. Get a massage, listen to your favorite music, eat your favorite foods, hangout with your friends. Do anything that makes you happy or relax.

If your house is quite far from the interview place, rent a hotel. Yes, I did it! I stayed over with my husband. We enjoyed the pool and hot tub :)) The next day, I woke up early in the morning, did Yoga, enjoyed my breakfast before going to the UK Embassy. I felt motivated but relax and fresh.

The Interview Day

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the Chevening interview is conducted in the UK Embassy. Maybe this year a little bit different since we are still in the middle of the Covid pandemic. They might conduct the interview online.

Whatever the interview format will be, please dress for success. Wear your best formal attire that makes you feel great. Groom, put perfume on your body. Appearance is important not only to respect the panelists but also to respect yourself.

If the interview is conducted at a certain location, they won’t let you have your phone. No notes are allowed. You don’t need to bring any documents with you, but bring them in your bag just in case.

When you’re waiting for your interview, please, don’t open your essays. Try to relax. On the interview day, you will likely meet other candidates. Talk to them instead of focusing on your paper or thinking about what will happen in the interview room. Win the waiting room, and you will win the interview room.

How to Answer the Chevening Interview Questions?

An interview is an oral essay. Thus, you need to answer the questions in a good structure like the way you wrote your essays. You can use STAR or my favorite essay structure that is taken from IELTS WRITING TASK 2. Always open the answer with context, main ideas, supporting ideas, and examples.

Once again, they will give you core questions that the answer you have written on your essays. It will be about your essays, so I won’t talk about this. For the added questions, it can be surprising and challenging.

One question I’ve got was an unpopular decision I made. Since I did it quite a lot, I answered it based on my experience. The second added question was about the trend in my industry. I didn’t write about this in my essays, so I had to answer it according to my industry knowledge.

In the end, if you understand yourself, your profession, your industry, your application, I believe you’ll nail the interview.

What about if you don’t really understand the question? Ask to confirm, “Pardon, is this the question that you mean?” I would not suggest you say, “Could you repeat your question?” Because it can be translated that you did not pay attention. By repeting the question, you’ll show that you paid attention, but you don’t understand.

Have Fun at the Chevening Interview!

I had three panelists interviewing me in 2018. They were the Indonesia Chevening Head, an alumnus, and an expert from my industry. They were all nice and I found that they were witty. I can tell that almost all the Chevening staff and alumni I met are nice, fun, and funny people. Hence, if you pass to the interview stage, don’t be too afraid that the interviewers will be intimidating. During the interview, if you want to laugh, just laugh. If you want to tell a silly story that is related to the scholarship, do it. If you want to be cheeky, do it to relax the vibe. Be yourself, have fun. But keep the politeness.

In my cohort, they asked about what we wanted to do if we received the scholarship. Most of the scholars I met, provide a relaxed and fun answer. I said to the panelists that I wanted to go to the football stadiums, chase football players, take pictures with the queen guard, visit as many cities as possible in the UK. Therefore, be your passionate self!

One of my fun wishes!

“Is there any question?”

The more you understand, the more questions you have. If you read the Chevening website, you will come up with many questions that you can ask. Having a question can show that you are interested and you appreciate them.

But if you don’t have any question, that’s also fine. It won’t reduce your points I believe.

My question in the past was whether Chevening has a platform that connects all the alumni since I need the network to actualize my aspiration after I finish my study. Yes, they have and it called Chevening Connect.

I believe as a candidate, you can come up with a good question 😉

All the best for your Chevening interview, I hope that you will join the network. If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a message on my Instagram.

Disclaimer: The opinions presented in this post are my own and based on my experience. I do not represent the Chevening programme or the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and partner organisations.

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