Kelsey Dube, USA National Jr. Teen 2016 - Photo courtesy of USA National Miss
USA National Miss is well known for bringing some heavy hitters to the judges table at UNM Nationals each year. This summer at Nationals 2015, the judging panel was a true “who’s who” of pageant celebrities, including Miss America 2015, the reigning Miss United States, Miss Haiti Universe 2015 (yes, from the infamous Steve Harvey pageant), Miss Teen USA 2012, Sherri Hill model and Miss Utah USA 2014 (who was also on the tv show Survivor), and a celebrity host who judged Olivia Culpo. If interviewing in front of a panel that impressive doesn’t make you the least bit jittery, you’re already a pro and can skip the rest of this article.
But in all seriousness, you’ve got to be on your A-game, totally relaxed and completely confident to stand in front of a panel of this caliber and ace interview. And UNM executive director, Jackie Watson, has already announced that the 2017 national panel of judges is going to be led by head judge Nia Sanchez, Miss USA 2014 and 1st Runner-up to Miss Universe! Here are some tips to help you prepare to come face to face with a panel of this caliber and rock interview like a boss.
1. Keep your intro short.
For Preteen delegates and up, you will have an interview introduction as you walk in the interview room. You want to share a few things about yourself in your intro, but it should be an ice-breaker, not a summary of your life. You will want to make sure that your intro is short enough that judges have the opportunity to ask you as many questions as possible. Remember that the clock starts as soon as you walk in the room. Touch on one or two things you really want to talk about in your interview and leave the remaining time to interact with the judges and let them discover who you are by taking their questions.
2. Be conversational.
When looking at comments the judges made in 2016 after interviews, it’s clear that they can see right through rehearsed lines and memorized catch phrases. It’s a good idea to gather your thoughts on crucial messages you want to leave the judges with, but rehearsing them always (and I mean always) comes out sounding memorized. Don’t formulate exact sentences in your head. That way, the words flow naturally when you talk. The goal is to have a natural flowing conversation, not give a planned-out, fully executed presentation speech. Trust me when I tell you that theses pros can spot the difference.
3. Know when to stop.
You will want to identify the middle ground between being conversational and rambling on about a topic you’ve been asked about. Don’t be too short with your interaction after a question, but learn to pick up on cues in the judges' body language that shows they are losing interest, such as looking down at your paperwork a lot or not being fully engaged in a conversation with you.
4. Be relaxed but keep the energy up.
Knowing your body language is important too. You can give off cues that you’re comfortable without making it seem like you’re a snooze fest. The judges will feed off your excitement and energy, so don’t forego keeping the energy up while being relaxed and comfortable in their presence. As with most things in life, this is a balancing act.
5. Engage all the judges in panel interviews.
Undoubtedly, there will be at least one judge who is usually more of a talker than the rest. They may ask most of the questions while the other ones soak in your answers. Be sure to direct your conversation to all the judges, not just the one who asked you the question. This keeps all the judges engaged in the interview whether they’re the ones asking the question or not. (Read: How to Stay in the Driver's Seat of Your Personal Interview)
6. Be yourself.
Can you possibly be anyone else other than yourself? The answer is yes. When you try to present yourself differently than what you really are, you are not only selling yourself short, but you’re never going to fully connect with the judges. Let the scores fall where they may, but always be you. Whether the judges fall in love with you or not, you have to love yourself, and part of loving yourself is being confident enough in your own skin to embrace yourself just as you are. There’s something truly magnetic about a person who is confident in who they are and what they can bring to the table.
7. Know your bio.
One of the deadly sins in interview is putting things on your bio sheet that you are not familiar with. It’s the quickest road to the untimely death of your quest to the crown. It may make you seem more interesting to bulk up your bio sheet with half truths, but nothing is worse to a judge than a contestant who fibs, stretches the truth or is unprepared. Know everything on your bio. Know it in your sleep. Know it frontwards and backwards. And for the love of all things blingy, parents, never put things on your little girl’s bio sheet that they won’t know how to talk about.
8. Be a commanding presence.
Who rules the world? Or more importantly, the interview room? The person controlling the interview should be you! You should be a commanding presence during your interview with the judges. This is your time to show your confidence, and let them know why you’re the best person for the job. You set the tone. You set the mood. If you walk in confident, happy and prepared, you will not only bring positive energy into the room, you will leave an impression. And isn’t that ultimately what interview is about? Winning interview at any pageant is so crucial, and at UNM it could also make you hundreds of dollars richer by winning one of two overall interview cash scholarship awards! But most importantly, if you make an impression on the judges in the interview room, they will love you and you will be one step closer to the crown.
Her tip is: "Never compare yourself to other contestants!"Learn More