19 April 2011

Scholarships in Malaysia: Interviews and Mistakes

My brother has received many offers from government-linked companies (GLCs) to further his studies overseas. However, the biggest hurdle for him and many other students comes in the form of interviews. Forget what you have received in school, and most probably the interviewees won't be asking that since details about yourself are already in front of their eyes. Let me share with you how to tackle the questions and mistakes not to be done if you want to get scholarships in Malaysia. I've got mine and it is wonderful and I feel obliged to share my knowledge with our excellent SPM students. You have worked so hard, and so are the rest. So, what makes you different? When it comes to interviewing people, nothing matters except what's in front of you.

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Now is the best time to share with the interviewees what have you done before, be it curricular activities or whatever. That is why your activities in schools are important. Why? At least you have something to tell the person who will decide whether you will get the scholarship or not.

  • A must question in any interview: Tell us about your family and background. If you can't prepare for this kind of question, please don't put your hope too much, okay? So, what to tell the interviewees? Tell them about your parents, what do they do (in case of me, I've an interesting story because my father is a barber and everyone will be like "Really, your father is a barber?"). So be proud of your parents. That was what I told my interviewees for every single time. Next, tell them where do you come from. Elaborate and  make stories out of it. Make sure that you are very smooth when talking about you background. Who else is better to tell about yourself?
  • What have you done in schools? What were you interested in? 
    • For me, I was very sure that my position as the school's top student leader was not an interesting topic to my interviewees since she did not ask anything about that. Why? Everyone knows if you can lead a student body, at least you have leadership qualities (although even some may not).
    • Do you know what the interviewee asked me? She asked about my Chemistry Quiz which I got a distinction from an Australian body when I was in Form 2. Yes, when I was in Form 2. She may be more interested in the amazing thing that I did in Form 2 compared to all of the national leadership camp, science quizzes, national champion, public speaking and debating competition. 
    • What I learnt from this is that we have to prepare ourselves of something unexpected. I would have never thought that she would be asking about that. However, I was gifted with some communication skills and went through the question very well. This brings us to another point, polish your communication skills!
  • Ignore those stupid person who would say you don't have to practice to speak in public. Practice speaking and you will be good in it. I saw many scholars who cannot speak very well actually but they managed to get the scholarships? How is that? They practised for so many times before coming to the interviews. My friends and I have always practised speaking before the interviews on any topic that came to mind, even if it was Benazir Bhutto. Practice, practice, practice!
  • What, Benazir Bhutto? Who is she? This should be the 'aha' moment when you must realise the importance of reading newspapers (or having some friends who are newspaper addict like Mr F, a friend of mine). My brother also asked what to answer of you have no idea whatsoever in answering the question. I asked him what was the question? His answer - What is sustainable development? OMG! That's easy. The solution is take the key words and elaborate! Easy. That question was nothing compared to the question I received from a white-haired interviewee from TNB, " What is the price per unit share for Tenaga in BSKL now?". I did not know. That was a fact and you need to answer that accurately. But, did you know what was I thinking? I thought he also did not know about the price, so I answered RM3.00++ because the price always fluctuates. He just nodded. I tell you, he did not know as well. See, confidence is everything. 
  • Confident, confident, confident! But not too much or you will be a bitch during the interviews. How to get the confidence? Easy. Get into your room, lock the door, and play acting. 
    • Successful students do this. Imagine the room is filled with the interviewees. So, main berlakon-berlakon ye. Practice your speech and sometimes read the newspaper aloud so you can practice your pronunciation.
  • This bring us to another point, polish your English if you want to get good scholarships. But, if can't do it in short time, never mind. Many scholars are still struggling with their English even if they are sent to London. The point is, if you can speak English properly, show to the interviewees that you have tried. But seriously, improve your English if you still have time. How? Read The Star aloud, the articles not Starmag. 
  • Knowledge about your choice of courses. Why do you want to do medicine? Normal answer: I like to help people. Folks, think of something else. Why engineering? Normal answer: I want to help building the country. Why geology? Normal answer: I will get lots of money, haha! 
Don't do these mistakes:

1. If you are like me, someone who cannot stop talking then you have to learn how to control yourself. If there is a group interview, do not dominate. This is especially true for Petronas scholarship program. If you ask any Petronas scholar, he/she will say not to dominate the group. If you do, goodbye. Then, how to present yourself without dominating the group? When you present your ideas, and you are done, ask for other friends to give feedback. Ask them questions that start with " Don't you feel that...", "Isn't that true..". This is to show how your team has worked together. 

2. Don't come late. Do you need more explanation on this topic? If you do, please close this window.

3. Wearing inappropriate clothes. Who would want someone sloppy? So, wear something smart that makes you look smart. However, don't overfashion yourself. No one give a damn whether it is a Zara or not. 

4. Wearing slippers (I'm not sexist but this is what I always see among girls). They think wearing long baju kurung will cover the feet portion. No, it doesn't. If you wear something work-like shoes, don't you feel more comfortable and have more confidence? People want to give you scholarships, so wear something nice. 

5. Crutches in speech. Crutches like 'urm', 'ahh', 'aaa'.

If you want to get specific interview tips for specific scholarship, you may contact me through the email at or leave your comments below. I may be able answer your queries as soon as possible. I have many friends from different scholarships so I can ask them for you. Whether it is Petronas, Bank Negara, JPA, Mara, Sime Darby, Khazanah, Shell, Yayasan Terengganu etc. you may get insider information from those who have gone through them and succeeded. -The Chukai Insider

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