Interviews

Hello! So my team has an upcoming competition and we had a question about the interviews.

We understand that these are important, however we were wondering what we should include in our interviews. Our last competition had a different interview system where they simply asked you questions about the robot, programming, etc. .Our instructor has informed us to prepare a 4-5 minute interview, and we don’t know what to include.

Thanks!

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You should talk about specific parts of the robot, who built it, problems you had while building it, and how you fixed it. You also want to talk about anything unique on your robot and talk about how you came up with it, problems that occurred, and solutions. Also let the judges ask any questions that they have.

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Thank you! @dchoi77 (20 char)

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I would recommend you make a poster board with the stages of your robot and the features of your robot on it. It will help a lot with the interview and judges like it.

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I find that rehearsing with your team and the robot helps a lot. Take turns, point to specific features, explain how they came to be, what were the options you discarded… Judges will ask about the robot, what your favorite part of the robot is, most challenging problems you faced, and what would do if you had more time to work on the robot. You can see the the robot is the focal point, but the team needs to demonstrate they all know the robot well and all contributed to the creation.

Does this mean one person teams can not get judged awards, absolutely not. However, the answers to question will shift to how did you accommodate not having team members, if you had someone come ask to join, how would you integrate them? If you were to delegate some aspect of the robot, what would you focus on more?

Good luck with interviews! Always have been my favorite part of VRC is listening to teams describe their journey together.

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Sounds like a bit of confusion between the meaning of a “presentation” and an “interview.” Preparing to talk 4-5 minutes without interruption is a presentation, while being asked questions is the definition of an interview (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interview).

First thing you can do is read the judges guide, which can be found here: https://www.roboticseducation.org/documents/2018/09/vrc-judge-guide-2018-19.pdf/ If you want to win, you need to know what the criteria is, right? As far as interviews go, look on page 16 for “suggested questions” that a judge might ask you, and look at pages 19-20, which is the Design Award rubric. One side of the DA rubric is where your engineering notebook is scored, and the other side is where your interview will be evaluated. The items on page 20 are what the judges are using to evaluate your team.

It’s fine to have a presentation ready, but you must be prepared to go “off script” when a judge interrupts you with a question. If the presentation sounds too scripted, like students are just “reciting their lines” without knowing what they are actually talking about, you can expect the judged to derail your presentation with some questions to probe if your team is genuine or not.

When I interview a team, after greeting the team and making sure there is time for an interview, I’ll usually say “tell us about your robot and your team.” Here’s your chance to talk about anything you want, and start a prepared presentation (if you have prepared one), but as I said before, if it sounds like you’re on a tightly rehearsed script, be ready for the judges to switch to a normal Q&A interview. On the other hand, if it sounds like your teams is speaking from a well-planned outline (not a script), and you can answer the occasional question then continue on your outline (which covers the points in the rubric), your interview will probably be rated highly, even without a lot of questions being asked.

Some general advice: when we start the interview, we will have already evaluated your engineering notebook and know if you are in the running for Excellence or Design. This might affect the types of questions we ask, because we have to determine that what you wrote in the notebook is genuine. Be ready to talk about your design process and how you made decisions. Outside of the questions and answers, we’ll be watching to see if the entire team is involved, or if just one person is doing all the talking. Judges and event volunteers are everywhere, and we all talk to each other, so how your team acts outside the interview (good or bad) will get to the judge’s room. Your mentors/coaches can sink you too, with bad sportsmanship or tinkering on you bot in the pits, or doing programming for your team at the practice field. Best thing your mentors can do at competition is keep their hands in their pockets, and definitely leave the area politely when the judges come for the interview.

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Just to add to this. Judges have a limited amount of time with each team. For some tournaments with many teams but few judges, this time may be limited to 5 minutes. If your team has a prepared presentation, make sure that you are respectful of cues that the judges are giving you. I have judged teams that drone on in a presentation and it is hard to get a word in edgewise. Then, by the time they have finished, I have not had a chance to ask relevant questions that I need to ask. All that to say: be very careful when preparing a “canned” presentation. It can backfire. I’m not a huge fan of presentations. As @kmmohn points out, this is an interview, not a presentation. So teams should be prepared to think on their feet and respond to the judges’ questions. That is really what a team is going to be judged on.

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Thank you all so much.

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So one thing that I have noticed is that judges don’t always give the same interview. Prepare ahead a brief description of your bot and what it does. After that, the number one tip I have is be knowledgeable about your robot. Judges aren’t always looking for the wordiest description of your robot and knowing how things work and WHY you chose that particular method is very appealing. At the end of the day remember its just an interview. Have fun explaining the creation you have put your time into.

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As others have stated, every interview is different. LISTEN to what the interviewer asks, and RESPOND to the question.

When an interviewer asks a specific question, and students “dump” a presentation on it that doesn’t answer it, that gives a negative impression.

In the rare case that the interviewer doesn’t ask a question first, you should ask them, “We have a presentation about our robot – would you like to hear it?” rather than just jumping into the presentation. Sometimes the interviewers are silent because tjhey’re writing notes from the last interview.

If the first “question” is, “Tell us about your robot,” you can feel free to give your presentation. But I recommend “layering it” – prepare 2-3 minutes of a quick overview, but pause and ask, “We can give you more detail about any of these subsystems – would you like to hear more?” Sometimes the interviewers want you to take the lead, and sometimes they want to be the ones to ask specific questions about certain aspects that are of lesser importance to you. Cater to them!

Being able to adapt and respond appropriately on the spot is what makes an interview rather than a presentation.

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I always seem to find myself acing the interviews, so here are some tips to further improve your interview as a whole:

  • Show your hands if you’re the one talking
  • Don’t talk negatively
  • Let everyone talk
  • Don’t interrupt others. And if you do, apologize.
  • Try answering the judges questions before they ask them. This would make you seem knowledgable and prepared
  • Before an interview, assign roles to each member as to what they will discuss about. And if a team member doesn’t know much about a particular item, refresh them with the information so there will be an equal contribution between all members when the interview happens.
  • Act confident, listen, and do not avoid their questions. (No slouching, heads up, eyes forward and try looking at them while talking. If you cannot seem to be able to look into their eyes while talking look past their head)

Hopefully this helps for those who wish to do well with interviews, and for thise who wish to take the extra step into getting the design award.
Edit//: Also many of these tips are very useful for job interviews as well.

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Something I’d add (if you have time) is to come up with a list of questions that you would ask as a judge. Then based on your team roles, assign each question to a person and make sure they know how to answer. Makes the process really easy during the interview and makes the team sound very prepared.

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I forgot some additional pointers:
The most important thing about the interview is the introduction and the end, much more emphasis on the end. The beginning of the interview drives the conversation’s aura. If you start off badly it may make the rest of the conversation awkward. If anyone should start the conversation it should be the most social/extrovert-like person of the team. The end of the conversation is what the referees would remember, shake their hand and do something that will ensure that you will stand out from the interview, such as give them a business card and ask them if they have any questions to call the number-type of thing to display professionalism.

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to second that judges will aim questions at the least vocal member so u could do that strategically but practice and make sure every kid has a niche so to speak

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In addition, to the interview questions itself you need to make good impression on judges even before interview starts.

Judges walk around the pits, making notes and often don’t have time to look for every team if they couldn’t find them right away.

  • Keep your pits area neat
  • Always have one of the team members staying back on the lookout when judges come. If they come, offer to bring back entire team for the interview.
  • Do not play on your mobile devices - work on the robot or talk with your teammates.
  • Don’t tell them your robot is the best. There are many robots similar to yours and they could see match results as well as you do.
  • If something doesn’t work tell judges what you are planning to fix for the next time.
  • Finally, smile!

Good luck with your interview!

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oh i forgot DO NOT BRAG!!! we had won like 12 trophies and as a joke we had said the interview didn’t mater we were gonna win teamwork and skills no mater what but during the interview one of my teammates said that to a judge we had won excellence all year till then and the judges gave us dirty looks for the rest of the day

note: this was in iq but the same concept applies BE MODEST
tldr: read the caps

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Thank you all so much.

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do NOT use a slideshow. the judges want to hear what you have to say about your robot, not what some text and pictures can say.

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Judging this past weekend I have to say be more engaged! I had one team that was so unenthusiastic. Another team had a member who shouted explicative from audience, refused to follow volunteer directions, refused to identify which team he was associated with. This is a good example of why we have the Code of Conduct.

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Okay so I know that a lot of people have said the same thing that I’m about to, but I want to feel important so here you are:

  • The judges see absolutely EVERYTHING
    Even if you and your teammates are just horsing around, the judges don’t know that and could think that you’re fighting or something. If you are saying curse words and other innapropriate stuff, they will probably be around to hear about it. Just pretend being at a comp is like being at your grandmas or something.
  • What you do in your pit matters
    If your pit isn’t clean, you don’t look presentable at pit interview. Keep it nice, try and stay off of your phone, and just make sure that you look busy. If you don’t have anything to do during lunch or have lots of time between matches, go watch some of the matches, go do skills, or maybe write something down for later in your notebook.
  • Stay in your pit
    When you aren’t in a match, maybe you are doing the above or scouting, but you always need to have at least one person in your pit at all times (except when you’re in a match, if you don’t have enough people to do so). If the judges come up for a pit interview, you want to be there. Like @weilin said, offer to bring back the team if they aren’t there already.
  • If you get a separate interview
    Make sure that you know what is in your notebook and on your robot. Every teammate should talk equally, and have at least somewhat equal knowledge on the robot and what is in your notebook. Judges like to see that everyone participated and that the work was split at least somewhat evenly.
  • Be kind and courteous
    Regardless of whether the judges are watching or not, you should be kind and courteous to the people around you. Shake hands at matches, be respectful and a good sport if you won or lost, open doors for people, be polite, you know, basic manners. The judges will be more inclined to like you if you are kind and respectful, you smile and say “yes, sir, no, sir, yes, ma’am, no, ma’am.” All of that stuff goes a country mile when it comes to judging.

Okay thank you to whoever actually felt like reading all of that, I love giving advice on stuff like this. If anything else, even if you know that you won’t be interviewed, please still be kind. It goes such a long way to new teams and makes you look good. Please point out any errors on my part, and know that I’m not a judge. Good luck!

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