7 interview tips to help you shine

What do we mean when we talk about “authenticity”? What’s the STAR approach and how can it help in an interview? Read our interviewers’ top tips to find out. 

If you’ve applied for our 2023-24 programme and we’ve invited you to an interview, we want you to do the best you can on the day. Our interviewers explain what they’re looking for and provide some practical advice for interview success.  

1.Be prepared 

It sounds obvious, but every successful interview starts with careful preparation. Do your research on what’s involved in a John Smith Trust fellowship by exploring our website and following us on social media. Be prepared to talk in detail about your career, your ideas for improving your society, and how you’ll make the most of the fellowship to help you achieve those ideas. Think thoughtfully about any questions you would like to ask us and make sure you have looked at our FAQs so that you are not asking about information we’ve already provided. 

2. Show authenticity 

Being authentic means being true to yourself. In the context of an interview, this means we’re not looking for the “right” answer but a “true” answer that’s unique to you. In other words, please don’t tell us what you think we want to hear. Be open and honest about your work, plans and ambitions.  

3. Show your commitment to change 

John Smith Trust Fellows come from diverse backgrounds across the public, private and civil society sectors. One thing they all have in common is their commitment to creating fair, sustainable and inclusive societies. We’ll be looking for evidence of how you’ve been working to create change and improve your society, and a passion for taking this work forward.  

a man and a woman sitting opposite each other at opposite ends of the table in what looks like a job interview
Photo by Kindel Media (Pexels)

4. Use the STAR approach 

The STAR approach is an interview technique that can help you give evidence of your experience and skills in a structured way. STAR stands for: 

  • Situation – the situation you had to deal with 
  • Task – the task you were given to do 
  • Action – the action you took 
  • Result – what happened as a result of your action and what you learned from the experience 

If you were working on the task within a team, we want to know what your role was and what you did, rather than what the team did as a whole. 

5. Dream big but set achievable goals 

During the fellowship, you’ll develop an Action Plan for a project that you will implement in your country. We encourage you to be ambitious, while also thinking about the steps you are going to take to reach your goal. You could think about this in terms of having a vision and setting SMART objectives (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed) to achieve it. 

6. Understand our values 

Our Fellows embody our values of openness, equity, curiosity, connection and courage. Think about how you can show that you understand and share these values. What do they mean in the context you’re working in? How can you “be the change” you want to see in your society? Take a look at our Fellows’ Charter to make sure you are familiar with our values and expectations.  

7. Relax  

We love meeting talented young professionals – like you – who share our passion for social justice, equity and good governance. If we’ve invited you to interview, it’s because we’re excited to listen to your ideas. So please try to relax and enjoy the interview!