Interview is the most important portion of competition in any pageant because you are able to directly speak to the judges about your plans, ambitions, and why you deserve the crown. Interview can truly be daunting to anyone, from the seasoned pageant competitor to the girl that’s competing for the first time. Read on for more tips on how to ace your interview!
In this Ultimate Guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to conquer the interview room, including format, judging, styling, preparation, common mistakes, top tips, and more. Bookmark this article for reference next time you’re preparing for pageant interview.
Why Pageant Interview Matters
Win the interview, win the pageant. This is a philosophy held by many in the pageant industry, and rightfully so. It’s not a 100% guarantee, but we can’t deny how impactful a great interview can be in a contestant’s final placement. At best, a great interview performance will make judges root for you and possibly score you higher in the other competitions. At worst, a bad interview can keep you from the crown entirely. This is what makes the competition so nerve-wracking.
Even so, Interview remains one of the most common areas of competition. You’re bound to find it in any modern pageant system, especially ones that give scholarship dollars. It is the contestant’s only chance to speak directly with the judges in a candid, more-or-less natural conversation. What sets it apart from Onstage Question is both the duration and setting; while Onstage Question takes place in front of an audience, judges, pageant staff, and other contestants, the Interview competition happens behind closed doors for only the judges, the contestant, and a timekeeper or coordinator to hear.
Interview is the only area of competition that contestants in a top final or semi-final will never recompete in, meaning the score you received will be carried into final scoring or factored into a composite score made up of all of your preliminary scores.
What to Expect in the Interview Room
Interview is usually either the first or last area of competition you compete in, and it can vary with age division and level of competition (State versus National, for example). No matter where on the schedule it falls, your performance in Interview will have a huge impact on your score so it’s important to know what to expect.
Each system is different, but all pageant interviews fall within one of two formats: panel or round-robin. Each format has its own advantages and disadvantages, and most contestants do have a preference for one or the other. Both forms are popular so it’s necessary to get used to both throughout your pageant career. Pageant systems are usually very clear about the format of their interview competition, so check the website or the contestant handbook.
In a panel interview, judges will sit behind a table and take turns asking the contestant questions. One contestant interviews at a time. Depending on the system, the contestant may be seated or standing, and there may or may not be a podium for use. More recently, pageants tend to have contestants stand without a podium.
Panel interviews can last anywhere from two to ten minutes, but the most common length is three to five minutes. The timekeeper or judges’ coordinator will let you know when your time is up. They may also give you a 30 second warning. One major trait of panel interviews is that every judge can hear every answer you give. So even if a judge doesn’t ask you a question themselves, they will still score your performance based on what they witnessed.
In a round-robin interview, there will be three to seven tables around a room. Each table will have a judge and an empty chair across from them. Contestants will sit and chat with the first judge, then go onto the second, third, and so on until they meet with every judge. There are several interviews going on at a time, but you will never be close enough to hear other contestants’ answers.
Depending on the system, round robin interviews can last from 30 seconds to three minutes for each judge. Some systems have contestants stand with their backs to the judges to allow for scoring and comments. The timekeeper will tell contestants and judges when their time begins and ends, often with a bell. Each conversation feels quick, and it’s not uncommon to answer only one or two questions per judge. Unlike a panel interview, each conversation can be different. Judges are usually not allowed to discuss contestants in depth, so they will only know what you tell them.
Interview Formats for Various Pageants
Here are the interview formats for some of the most popular systems:
|Pageant System||Interview Format||Interview Length|
|Miss America||Panel||10 minutes|
|Miss USA & Miss Teen USA||Panel||~2 minutes|
|National American Miss||Round-robin||45-60 seconds per judge|
|Miss High School America||Panel||~3 minutes|
|USA National Miss (Sr)||Panel||2 minutes|
|USA National Miss (Jr)||Round-robin||1 minute per judge|
|Royal International Miss||Panel||3 minutes|
What to Wear for Your Pageant Interview
Judges can see your interview outfit before you even answer a question, so it’s important to choose one that conveys confidence and poise. Several factors go into picking the perfect interview outfit, including style, fit, color, length, pattern, and whether or not it’s appropriate for your age division and system. Here’s our Guide to Picking the Perfect Interview Outfit.
If you don’t know where to start, look for a bright, solid color dress that stops a few inches above the knee. Pair it with closed toe nude pumps and small, undistracting earrings that match the color of your dress. Looking at some Interview Outfit Inspiration might help you get an idea of what you like.
Your hair and makeup should be appropriate for an interview setting, so stick to natural looks with nude-colored lipstick or gloss. However you style your hair, it should be out of your face so the judges can see you clearly. You can check out our Best Eye Makeup Inspiration and Pageant Hairstyles Inspiration.
How to Prepare
Interview is definitely something that you have to prepare for, even if you are a gifted speaker. It relies on those interpersonal and communication skills that everyone should develop. Here are some of the best pageant interview tips we swear by.
Practice Makes Progress
There’s no way to know what exact questions you’ll be asked, but practice can prepare you for anything. By going over a wide range of interview questions and possible topics, you can get in the habit of answering questions in a confident, effective way. Start practicing with the 10 Questions Every Contestant Should Know, then move onto the 33 Most Challenging Practice Questions.
Once you feel ready, you can try a mock interview. Mock interviews are helpful when it comes to reducing the anxiety that comes with being in a timed interview setting. If you’re ready to take your interview preparation to the next level, consider booking the Talk the Talk Package. We’ve helped contestants develop a winning interview strategy that’s earned perfect interview scores in various systems.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Since judges are closer to you in the interview competition, they will be able to see you in full detail! As someone with combination skin, I always remember to use a hydrating mask the night before my interview. That way, my skin will be dewy and truly radiant while speaking to the judges!
Work With a Coach
If experience is the best teacher, coaches are the second. Coaches provide a layer of accountability and preparation that you may struggle with independently. They often know the ins and outs of competition weekend and can give you advice you can’t find online.
This investment will prepare you for every pageant you compete in going forward. Although they cannot promise a title or placement, they can guarantee your improvement! We specialize in coaching contestants who are new to pageantry or have never placed in a national or international semi-finals. You can learn more about our available packages on our Coaching page.
Should you memorize answers?
When it comes to answering questions, it’s not always the best to memorize answers. The key is to get used to answering anything the judges will throw at you without waiting to think of an answer. In simpler terms, focus on the method of answering with well-thought out answers instead of the actual answer itself.
Interview is hard because you must truly know yourself before you even walk in. More importantly, you must truly believe in yourself! I would recommend looking up common questions just to get yourself familiarized with what you would really say in your interview.
If it helps, have mock interviews! When I first started out in pageantry, I used to practice interview questions casually with my mom while driving to and from school. That way, I got into a relaxed way of answering questions without freaking out.
In the end, interview is all about the mindset. If you walk in super confidently and know that you are going to rock it, then you will!
During the Interview
As soon as you walk into your interview, whether it is panel or round robin, walk in like you’ve already killed it. Really get into that mindset of unshakable confidence and the rest will fall into place!
If you are sitting in an interview, be sure to sit up tall and at the edge of your seat with your legs crossed at the ankle. If you are in a panel interview, it is important, but not completely necessary to stand in “pretty feet” the entire time. Panel-style interviews are my personal favorite, just because they tend to be longer and you have the freedom to stand and speak, allowing the judges to see you from head to toe.
Remember that the judges aren’t trying to scare you or ask you trick questions! They are genuinely trying to learn about you.
What to do when you don’t know the answer
If a judge asks you a question and you freeze or cannot think of an answer, don’t worry! If I’m stumped, I usually just try and relate the question back to me and my experiences. For example, if a judge were to ask me about my favorite food, I would talk about my choice in becoming a vegetarian and my love of diverse cuisines. An integral part of successfully selling yourself in an interview is fully answering the question and then relating the answer back to yourself, if time permits. That way, you will increase the amount of information the judges remember about you. Try practicing with these challenging interview questions!
Ultimately, the judges’ objective is to find out who you are and why they should pick you to be a representative of the title you’re competing for. It does take some experience to do this effectively, but practice really does make perfect.
After the Interview
As soon as you leave the interview room, do not stress! Don’t think about what you could have said, what you did say, or what you didn’t say. Take a deep breath, relax, and know that you did perfectly fine! Time will surely tell!
Interview is all about the mindset. If you are competing in a system that gives back scores and comments from judges, don’t be afraid to go over them. Looking over possible improvements and applying those improvements to your performance will prove to be a true gamechanger.
So, that’s it! It’s really that simple. What are your best tips for interview? Do you have a method that helps you? If so, comment below!