Tips For The Interview

The Do's and Don'ts of Judging Interviews

Exactly what happens during judging varies from competition to competition. You should carefully review the procedures outlined on the website of the competition(s) you're entering. However, most of the top competitions rely on face-to-face judging interviews in order to make the final determinations. These interviews usually have a time cap. You have less than 10 minutes to convey all of the information you want during an interview. In addition to explaining all the science, you'll want to leave judges with the impression that you were courteous, confident, comfortable, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and engaging.

Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • Make sure your display board conveys information efficiently. Depending on how the fair is set up, and on judges' individual schedules, judges might or might not have had time to preview the displays. Regardless, the point of the board is to convey as much information as quickly as possible. A well-put-together display board is an advantage, allowing you to get the basic description of your science project across quickly so that the judges can focus on asking you questions to evaluate what you did and how much you know.

  • Get started immediately. Introduce yourself and ask the judge whether he or she would like you to start describing your work. If he or she says yes, provide a good overview of your project, but be prepared to stop and answer questions at any time.

  • Don't ignore a question. If you're in the middle of a speech and a judge asks you a question, immediately switch to trying to answer it. Interviews are time-limited and the judge is trying to ascertain, within those time constraints, whether or not you meet all seven of the aforementioned judging criteria.

  • Practice what you have to say about your science project. It is very important to relay information confidently and succinctly, but remember that a judge wants more than just a canned speech. If a judge asks you a question, he or she wants you to abandon your prepared speech and have an intelligent discussion. If you get too flustered when you're forced to deviate from your practiced project explanation, the judges will wonder if you truly understand what you're saying or if you're just repeating someone else's explanations. So practice an explanation of your science project, and practice being interrupted to answer questions.

  • Practice your tone. Every interview should have a professional but conversational tone.

  • Don't let silence reign. If a judge appears to be out of questions, then you should keep the conversation going and create opportunities to convey how much you know about your science project. Some things you can do include: pointing out and explaining surprising data points, talking about what you'd do next with your data, discussing the wider implications of your research.

  • Talk about the process and not just the product. For a judge to evaluate your thought process and logic, it is important for him or her to understand not only your results, but also how you got there. Describe how and why you arrived at that particular experimental setup or product design. If preliminary data encouraged you to re-design your science project, explain how that evolved.


  • Do's and Don't For The Interview (pdf)