Maybe you’re here because you’ve applied to the Peace Corps and are under consideration. Congratulations! The next step of the lengthy application process is the interview. If you pass, then you can officially be invited!
No pressure, though. Your resume and aspiration statement are equally as important. The interview is your chance to shine and show your enthusiasm in flesh form (or rather, digital flesh…?).
That being said, I am the absolute worst in interviews. I hate speaking about myself and being put on the spot. I get jittery, speak quickly, and stumble on my words. The interview was the part I dreaded the most, but I survived and actually thrived! If I can pass the interview, surely you can, too. I hope this post is helpful for Peace Corps applicants!
Format of the Peace Corps interview
The interview is conducted on Skype for Business, but sometimes via telephone when the connection is poor. It lasts anywhere from 60-90 minutes. Be sure to download the necessary programs in advance.
The interview is divided into three parts:
- General questions about your motivation for serving in the Peace Corps.
- Talking about specific situations exemplifying soft skills that will be useful during service (adaptability, ambiguous situations, etc.)
- Going over common concerns, such as gender roles, health issues, living without electricity etc.
Then you will have time to ask questions.
5 Tips to Nail the Peace Corps Interview
Being nervous only makes it worse. Trust me, I am a nervous person, but I felt relaxed once the interview started. The interviewer is as an RPCV (returned Peace Corps Volunteer), so he/she was in your exact position and knows how nerve racking it can be. I can’t speak to all of the interviewers because I only obviously met one, but mine was relatable; it didn’t feel like she was harshly judging me. In fact, she wasn’t even looking at me most of the time because she was typing my answers. I didn’t sense a power divide, but rather we were equals with similar values and interests: make a positive impact and learn about different cultures.
Remember, the interviewer wants you to succeed, so show him/her that you’ve got what it takes!
First, thoroughly read through the Peace Corps website to get a solid grasp on the three goals, core expectations, country information, and your job description.
Next, thoughtfully prepare your answers. I found all of the questions on this Reddit thread. All but one of these questions were asked. It took me quite some time to think of good examples for each question, so I’m glad I had enough time to think about relevant situations. I tried to draw from different experiences, whether they’re through work or volunteering. Try to highlight times you worked with people from different cultures.
Be specific, but also don’t give long winded answers because the interviewer will ask follow-up questions for details, so you don’t want to repeat yourself.
Also, the interviewer asked for experiences lasting four months or longer. I didn’t know this going into it! So you are warned.
I don’t care how silly you may feel, practice saying the answers aloud! Do it in the mirror, voice recorder, while you’re commuting, under your breath in the supermarket, in front of your friends or cat. Heck, even a stuffed animal will do! Having the perfect answers on paper means nothing when it’s just that. Aim to sound conversational and natural, not like you’re reading or throwing out memorized phrases.
4. Look the part.
While it is a Skype interview and you can technically wear pajama bottoms, do wear what you normally would in an interview. You will feel the part and thus boost your confidence. Besides, I read a story where an interviewee had to get up because someone was repeatedly ringing the doorbell. That wouldn’t go down well had she worn some zebra print jammies!
Check the webcam before to make sure you are lit well and the backdrop is tidy.
5. Have questions for the interviewer prepared.
This is standard advice for any interview. Show that you’ve done your research and that you are eager to learn more. Pretty much everyone will ask “Tell me about your Peace Corps experience’ and interviewers are happy to share that. Have some specific questions, such as “What do you wish you knew before serving?”
Some questions that I asked are:
If invited, what could I do to best prepare for service until departure?
How did you find learning the language? What tips would you give to best learn the local language?
How did serving in the Peace Corps influence your career after?
I also asked some administrative questions about medical and legal clearance since I was applying from abroad.
I finished the interview! Now what?
It’s time for the most played game when it comes to the Peace Corps… the waiting game! We got invited about two weeks after the interview (check out our timeline), but this is relatively early. Every situation will vary; it could be months until you hear back. So don’t think about it too much. Occupy yourself and stay busy while you wait to hear back.
Applying as a couple? Well, there’s one more interview…
We applied as a couple, meaning Adam and I had a 30-minute interview together in addition to our individual interviews. I’ll write a post about that in the near future. In the meantime, check out a post on the benefits and challenges of serving as a couple.