An interview is an important part of a school application process.
Interviews are conducted in a group, in pairs or one to one. Schools don’t want to hear over rehearsed lines but there are things that both children and parents can consider in advance of an interview. I hope that you will find my interview tips useful. Should you wish to arrange an interview session with me, do contact Osborne Cawkwell. These are generally split with me seeing a child for about 40 minutes followed by 20 minutes verbal feedback.
An interview is an opportunity for you to show the interviewer what sort of person you are.The schools want to see how you think about and answer questions, know what you like doing and learn about YOU.
First impressions count:
Enter the room with a knock on the door, a smile, shake hands and wait to be asked to sit down.
Look smart with clean uniform or home clothes, polished shoes and a tidy haircut .
Put your feet on the floor, sit up straight with your hands on your lap and sit still.
Maintain eye contact:
Use a clear, confident voice, do not mumble.
Be natural and relax, this is a great opportunity to talk about how interesting you are!
Always be polite and display good manners.
How to answer questions:
Answer in a full sentence and back up your answers. Avoid plain yes/no answers.
Do not use language such as ‘yep, like, dunno, stuff’.
If you are asked something like ‘Do you like football?’, don’t just say ‘Yes I do.’ Try a fuller answer such as, ‘Yes, I like football and I play for the B team at school.’
Or, ‘Yes, I like music. I am working towards grade one on the piano and sing in the choir.’
If you are asked about something that you do not like, try to turn your answer into a positive response. For example, ‘Do you like football?’ could be answered with ‘I am not so keen on football but I DO like rugby.’
Chat to your parents and their friends about activities that you enjoy. Be able to talk about your hobbies. You probably have lots of fabulous interests from Lego building, to sports, to performing magic tricks.
Be able to talk about the book you are currently reading, the style of stories that you like and some favourite authors. You might be asked to describe a story that you have written yourself.
Describe yourself – that means what TYPE of person are you. Are you kind, helpful, responsible, sporty, musical, funny, happy etc?
Practise reading aloud. If you are asked to do this, concentrate on the text in case you are asked questions about it.
You might be asked some mental maths questions – keep your times tables sharp.
If you are interviewed in pairs or a small group, remember to take turns.
Be prepared to look at and discuss something a bit different like a painting or object.
Think about why you would like to go to a particular school, prepare a couple of questions to ask the interviewer. For example, ‘What clubs are there after school?’. Or, ‘ Can I play tennis at lunchtime?’.
Watch the news in advance of your interview and be able to talk about something that has caught your eye. Can you display a sense of general knowledge? Read First News or the Junior Week or ask someone to look at either with you.
Know the Headmaster’s or Headmistress’ name.
Look at the school website and learn a bit about what they do: sports, music, drama, trips, clubs and charity work.
When you leave your interview, shake hands, smile and say thank you.
I hope you have found my interview tips helpful. Remember that this is your chance to shine but in just a short time, it is up to you to get across your personality and talents.
Be confident and be YOU!
Interview Tips for Parents
- Help your child to be self aware by discussing his/her clubs and hobbies both in and out of school.
- Discuss what you have done at the weekend so that your child is able to give examples of the sort of activities that they typically do in their ‘home’ time.
- What would your child choose to do at home if it was a wet day and they couldn’t go outside ?
- What do you do during ‘family time’?
- If your child’s passion is Lego or football, it is OK to talk about it during an interview as long as the activity is expressed with clarity and evidence. Do not tell your children to say that their favourite pass time is reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, if that is not the case. They will make a greater impression by speaking from the heart.
- If your child likes using Lego or robotics, ask them questions about it. How did you make that move? Tell me how you built that model?
- If you play chess or board games together, ask your child to describe useful stratagies.
- Look at the prospective school websites together. What interests your child about a particular school/is there a club of interest/can they join trips abroad/are they able to join school productions in the first year? This will help your child to consider WHY they would like to join a particular school. Find something relevant to your child and help them avoid saying that they want to join school X because it is a ’ good’ school.
- Use the websites to help prepare a couple of questions to ask the interviewer, if given the opportunity. How can I join the orchestra? /Is there a street dance club?
- Self evaluate. What is your child really good at and what have they achieved thus far? Model using your own skills and interests.
- Ask your child to describe a recent science experiment/school trip/art project and use specific terminology.
- Remind your child to draw from their own life experience rather than learn a rehearsed answer. This is useful if they get stuck on a question. ‘I haven’t learnt how to play rugby yet but I like watching matches with my parents.’
- Engage your child in opinion/debate style conversation.
- Keep playdates and clubs in the run up to the exams. Talking about these show how interesting and varied your child’s life is.
- Ask your child to interview you or another adult to model some clear answers. Share what your day is like and the sort of activities that you enjoy with the family or on your own.
- Take your child to see the film or theatre version of a book. Reading is absolutely key to being able to present as interesting, curious, creative and knowledgeable. However, sometimes seeing the film or play of a book can help understand it.
- Watch Newsround or breakfast tv together. Show your child how to precis the key points from a news story or use it as a discussion starter. Do the same with newspaper articles. Children might not be expected to answer direct questions on current affairs but it is good to show an awareness of the world around them.
- Discuss the style of books that your child enjoys. Identify favourite characters. What would you do if Harry Potter came to your school? Which book would you take to a desert island?
- Play ‘Just a minute’ or ‘What am I?’ games to practise how to be concise.
- Can your child engage in conversation? This will help at interview but also as an important life skill.
Lucy Watts is a former Headmistress of Eaton House and now Educational Consultant.