An Inside Look in the IFA Fellow Selection Process

Updated: Oct 8, 2020

By Margaret Wang.

When I graduated from Princeton University, I naively and presumptuously thought that my degree could get me an entry level position at any startup. A month before graduation, I must have applied to over 100 startups and received ZERO responses.

It was then that I started to remove fancy research experiences and highlighted my extracurricular activities that showed my ability to collaborate, hustle, and lead. I was surprised when some of the recruiters asked me about my rigorous marathon training as I was waking up at 5AM to run 20 miles on the weekends. But most of all, I became vulnerable in revealing that my mission and passion in life was to solve education problems through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Fast forward to today: after working at an early stage startup, interacting with several entrepreneurs and industry experts, teaching entrepreneurship and business management as well as co-founding Innovate for Africa, the startup recruitment process started to make sense: startups need adaptable, collaborative leaders with grit and growth mindset.

This is why our Innovate for Africa’s selection process is intentionally rigorous. We are making sure we are recruiting aspiring entrepreneurs who have the right mindset to learn and grow as an innovator. So, here is an inside look into the IFA Fellow Selection Process:

Step 1: The Written Application

Our written application includes: background information, ~10 multiple choice questions to learn more about who you are, resume, reference contact information, and most importantly, the long essay response:

  1. Why do you want to be an IFA Fellow? How does it fit with your future goals? What relevant activities or learning have you done up to this point to meet your goal?

  2. Describe how you are an innovator and give specific examples. - Why do you want to be an IFA Fellow?

Key Tip: We are looking for those who demonstrate that:

  • You have ambitious goals with a clear understanding of what is needed to meet them, consistently sticking with challenging work.

  • You respond to setbacks as learning experiences and try again, taking risks to push yourself to the next level.

  • You can reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses while actively seeking resources to always self improve.

  • You have a basic hard skill that you are passionate about developing.

  • Take time to be thoughtful in your essay responses. We suggest you revise over several drafts and proofread your work.

Step 2: Group Virtual Interview

In this round, you will be put tasked with a challenge with other prospective fellows. While your task will be challenging, we will actively be observing how you collaborate with others.

Key Tip: When working with a group, we look for those who:

  • You respond positively to challenge and actively lead, strategically breaking down challenging tasks.

  • You listen to other team members and are able to collaborate effectively.

  • You are a critical and thoughtful thinker in how you solve the challenge we present.

  • You are able to reflect on group work-- on other member’s contributions as well as your own.

Step 3: Individual Virtual Interview

The last stage of the selection process is the individual virtual interview. This is your turn to really show us who you are, why you are passionate about becoming an innovator, and how your previous experiences and track record are indicators that you will show up to our program with grit, passion, and energy.

Key Tip: We are looking for fellows that embody our values. The best way to show this is to have concrete examples of your experiences. We love to hear:

  • Situation - what was the situation?

  • Task - what did you have to do?

  • Action - what did you end up doing?

  • Result - what was the result?

Applications are OPENED: Apply Now!

If you are an aspiring innovator, do not hesitate to apply. And even if you are not accepted this cycle, part of growth mindset is seeing failure as an opportunity to grow. After all, this is what I did after I got rejected over 100 times. If you do not wish to apply or do not fall into the accepted category, please reach out and share to innovate graduates ready to take the next step in their professional development. Apply here to be an IFA fellow today.

Learn more about our program at our website:

Become an IFA partner today to hire a fellow from our future cycle:

Follow Innovate for Africa on Twitter; Instagram; LinkedIn; Facebook

Together we can inspire the next generation of innovators.

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