Preparing for the Infamous Interview

My interview is only a few days away, so I thought I’d assist future PCVs in getting ready for their own interviews by creating a list of possible interview questions. While I haven’t had my interview yet, I received an email from a Peace Corps Volunteer Placement and Assessment Specialist with assorted questions to help me prepare. I’ve also spent quite a while perusing blogs and the Peace Corps Wiki page for interview questions, as well.

Here’s the list I’ve compiled:

  1. Learn as much about the Peace Corps and Volunteer life as you can by reviewing the Peace Corps website.
  2. Know the Project Description of the Volunteer position for which you’re applying. Do you know what the role entails? Do you have any of the desired/required skills for the position? Do you understand your possible living conditions? Do you have any health problems that may prevent you from serving?

Motivation/Commitment:

  1. What motivates you to seek a service position as a Peace Corps Volunteer? How does Peace Corps service fit into your long range plans?
  2. Remember back to your first playground experience. Why did you want to play on the playground? What games did you play?
  3. What, if anything, might keep you from completing a 27-month commitment to Peace Corps Service?

Productive Competence:

  1. What has been your most successful experience in a leadership role? Be as specific as possible.
  2. Discuss an experience where you were able to transfer knowledge or skills to someone who was different from yourself. What did you learn about your interpersonal skills from that experience? What did you learn about the other person?
  3. What has been the most frustrating experience you have had when working with others. Specifically, how did you manage that frustration?
  4. Discuss a time when you worked in an unstructured or ambiguous situation. How did you approach the task at hand? What did you learn about your personal strengths from that experience?
  5. All Peace Corps Volunteers learn a new language. Have you studied a second language? If so, what challenges did you face and what level of facility did you achieve? What aptitudes or abilities can you draw on to help you succeed in learning a new language?

Maturity:

  1. What situations do you typically find stressful? What do you currently do to reduce stress?
  2. When you are overseas, circumstances and/or cultural norms may prevent you from employing your usual ways of managing stress, boredom, and loneliness. You will also most likely be out of touch with your familiar support group. In such a situation, what alternative outlets might you use? If your support group currently plays a critical role in helping you cope with stress, how will you manage without them?
  3. What is the longest you have been physically separated from important people (family, friends, romantic interests, etc.) in your life? What was the most difficult part of being away from those closest to you? How did you cope?
  4. What kind of support have you received from those closest to you on your decision to join the Peace Corps?
  5. Has anyone close to you opposed your decision to join Peace Corps? If so, who was it? What were his/her concerns? How have you responded to them?
  6. Discuss a time when you had trouble following a rule.
  7. One’s ability to work through and resolve differences or conflict is often tested in cross-cultural situations. Discuss a specific situation where you needed to work through a disagreement or difference of opinion. Were you able to reach a resolution? How, specifically, did you do that?
  8. If you weren’t able to resolve the conflict, what prevented you from doing so? In retrospect, is there anything you would do differently?
  9. Are you currently in a relationship? If so, how will you handle the expectations of your service overseas?

Social Sensitivity/Cultural Awareness:

  1. In some countries, tattoos, body piercing, or unusual hairstyles may be culturally unacceptable. To be a successful Volunteer in such a country, you would have to modify your appearance so that it conforms to local norms. Are you willing to make such an adjustment? Give an example of a time that you had to modify your appearance.
  2. The following are issues that you may face in your country of service. Please note any concerns:
    • Different and unusual foods? A lack of variety in diet. Are you currently a vegetarian?
    • Different living conditions or lack of modern conveniences.
    • Modifying appearance (facial hair, tattoos, piercings, conservative dress)
    • Lack of privacy with host family or lack of privacy in the community.
    • Geographic isolation? Isolation from other volunteers?
    • Prescribed gender roles, including roles that may be considered “traditional” or “conservative.”
    • Volunteers are going to be in the minority during service. This could be due to ethnicity, physical attributes, sexual orientation, religion, or other traits.
    • Personal religious requirements or possible lack of access to your own religious services. Serving in a region where the predominant religion is different from your own.
    • Living in a culture that prohibits the use of alcohol altogether or living in a culture where alcohol may be widely consumed and accepted.

Remember, the Peace Corps is a professional organization, and it expects applicants to conduct themselves in a professional manner throughout the duration of the application process. With that being said, read through the “Common Challenges Faced by Peace Corps Volunteers” document, and the “Expectations for Service” document. Still, don’t forget to have a sense of humor, a little humility, and a lot of honesty. Interviewers are trying to get to know you, not scare you to death!

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