Back in Buisness: Preparing for an Interview

Hi PA-TSA, I hope all of you are doing well, and are excited about your regional conferences! For many, this may be your first in-person conference, or at least your first in a while, so I’d like to offer some tips for any of you that have interviews or presentations. Also, don’t forget that you can find other tips and resources in the “Event Resources” section of the PA-TSA website!


I’d like to start by stressing the importance of your interviews; depending on the event, interviews can account for around 25% of the potential points you can receive. However, keep in mind, rubrics vary greatly from event to event so I’d recommend reviewing the rules and rubric of your particular event. I included a screenshot of the HS Biotechnology Design Rubric as an example below. Reviewing the rubric will help you understand the perspective of your judges in your interviews, and assist in making sure your preparation for them is targeted/specific.


Some tips:

  1. Unless you have tons of interview or presentation experience, a large part of your performance will probably depend on your preparation. To prepare, start by studying the content the interview will cover, especially if the topic is more technical. Be able to explain certain aspects of your project, as well as your decision or brainstorming process. Make sure you know the words you are using; be able to define or elaborate on any topic-based jargon or verbiage that may be confusing. Feel free to be a little more creative or informal in your explanations than you were in your portfolio.
  2. If the interview is for a team event, split up the content. Making sure everyone who is at the interview (probably 2-3 people depending on the event) is actively participating is key, and something the judges are specifically looking for and grading you on. While all of your teammates should be knowledgeable about the project, study your section the most, and make it your specialty, even if it requires additional research.
  3. After dividing the content, determine the flow and order of the interview. Keep in mind, for most interviews the judges will either ask you a series of questions or just begin by asking you to tell them a bit about your project. Be prepared to give a 2-3 minute spiel to them. If anything, make this pitch the focus of your preparation, as most of their other questions will probably be answered by this initial explanation anyway.
  4. As a team, be prepared to chime in on each other’s parts if they forget something or need help; if done smoothly, this can only add to the cohesiveness of your presentation.
  5. Take your time. While your interview may have a time constraint, timing and cadence go a long way in establishing the vibe of the room, and slowing down can help you stay calm.
  6. If they ask you a question, make sure you take your time to think through your response deliberately and answer clearly with relevant information. If you don’t know the answer, you don’t necessarily need to answer it; most importantly just stay calm and unfazed. Instead, work ahead of time on preparing a proper response to a question you don’t know how to answer, and, if it’s relevant, do your best to draw a parallel to a different part of your project and elaborate on that.
  7. Go into the interview in a good mindset. Conferences, and the days leading up to them, are often full of stress and anxiety. Come a little early and take a couple of minutes before your interview to collect yourself, concentrate, and relax. Temporarily forget about any other events you may have, and focus solely on this. Some teams even have a good luck ritual they’ll perform before the interview. Whatever you do, just make sure to go into the interview positively and confidently.
  8. Consider doing a practice interview with your friends or teammates. You could even have a more experienced chapter member listen and give you advice, feedback, or even just point out the areas where you need to improve.
  9. Lastly, don’t forget your normal interview etiquette. Look professional as an individual or a team. Give the interviewers a handshake when you enter, depending on the COVID situation. Turn your phone off before the interview, and make sure to thank them for their time and for judging the event.
    • Do sit up straight and look genuinely interested.
    • Do keep good eye contact.
    • Don’t slouch.
    • Don’t lean forward, towards the interviewer.
    • Don’t point.
    • Don’t cross your arms.
    • Don’t stare for too long.
    • Don’t fidget.
    • Don’t keep looking around the room.
    • And of course, do smile :)


Remember, the interview is your opportunity to really stand out to a judge. Often, it is difficult for them to get a full understanding of your project without talking to you; they have to look through tens of similar portfolios and projects, and can only mentally associate them with a title or random team number. Capitalize on this opening by preparing and organizing in advance, staying calm, and demonstrating the awesomeness of your project and your TSA abilities. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or anything else, please feel free to reach out to me or another State Officer. We’re all here to help, always!


Best of luck with your events,

Benjamin Moldovsky

Pennsylvania TSA State Secretary

Secretary [at]