During the scholarship interview, it’s vital to stand out on your individual merits. Sponsoring organisations are searching for unique individuals, and the particular benefits they will bring to their work. So, it stands to reason that your answers should highlight your individual traits and illustrate how you can apply to your potential sponsor’s purpose.
However, in a world of testimonies and CCA records, some applicants skip over their employment history in favour of more academically-oriented achievements. They assume their time helping a family business or starting a blogshop is “irrelevant” compared to the lofty goals of policy planning or company management, and fail to mention it.
Don’t make that mistake! Your employment history is one more facet of you, and your interviewers will want to know about it for the same reason they are asking you all those questions – how is it relevant to their work?
If you are able to demonstrate how a previous job integrates with the work a sponsoring organisation is doing or a project they have planned, then you will be that much closer to being chosen as their scholar. But, how to go about doing it?
The best possibility is that your previous job has some direct relevance that simply needs to be brought up. For example, when interviewing for MOH Holdings, a stint as a clinic receptionist or an internship with a hospital definitely need a mention.
But, don’t get lazy and expect the interviewer to connect the dots for you. No matter what job it was, be sure to mention how it is relevant to the work of the organisation. For example, in the aforementioned clinic receptionist position, you could highlight how you learnt about medical work “on the ground” and how it had honed your ability to speak with different patients.
Though the above is the best case scenario, the truth is that your holiday jobs probably didn’t have any direct connection to the organisation you applied for. In that case, it’s up to you to describe how the skills you learnt are applicable.
Say the interviewer asks about your hobbies, and you reply, “I love photography, so I was an Assistant Lighting Technician in a studio, and made some money.”
You have answered the question, but provided no relevant information to the interviewer. You can’t expect them to help you figure out how your photography side-gig will help them with their work, or even why they should care.
Instead, say you answered, “I strongly believe that hobbies, like any other skill, should be honed and practiced. Hence, I contacted a senior and got a temporary position as an Assistant Lighting Technician in his studio, which specialises in outdoor photography. Coordinating all the equipment and adjusting it again and again was tiring, but now I have a really good eye for detail and have become much more meticulous and careful. When I read about your new project developing visual aids for the elderly, I couldn’t help but think that all that work learning about lighting and visibility could be put to good use on a grander scale!”
This answer demonstrates important things about you:
1. Your personal beliefs (“hobbies, like any other skill, should be honed”)
2. Your ability to remember (you remember what your job entailed)
3. Your ability to learn (you learnt how to be meticulous and careful)
4. Knowledge of the organisation/current affairs (a project developing visual aids)
5. Flexible and creative thinking (you extrapolated from your job requirements ways you could contribute to the organisation)
The answer also emphasises how you changed and learnt from the job, as well as how you can contribute to the organisation. There may be other candidates who learnt photography and worked part-time, but only you interpreted those experiences in this way and made them valuable skills the organisation should invest in.
Your previous employment is just as worthy of note as any award or achievement. Before your interview, look at your previous gigs and figure out which you want to highlight and how you want to talk about them. Then wow your interviewer with your unique perspective and job history!
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