Ace that interview

Education | Samuel Chan 26 Apr 2016

Admissions interviews to the best schools in the world are not designed to determine who might be a potential straight-A student. Being academically nimble is undoubtedly valuable, but there is more to an interview than a mere confirmation of academic credentials.

My extensive correspondence with registrars points to the need for interviewees to grasp that an interview is not an exam but a means to be expressive, opinionated, open and enthusiastic.

Candidates should be prepared to give an opinion on a poem or an extract from a book, but displaying conversational competence and calm under pressure is equally as important.

Caitriona Redding, head of international admissions at Oundle School, strives to make interviewees "feel at ease." They need to be aware of an interviewer's intentions. Redding asks simple questions at the start of an interview to help the interviewee to "grow in confidence."

Interviewees can exploit this rapport-building phase to calm down and get their body language in order.

Charlie Bostock, registrar at Uppingham School, says body language should be used to "demonstrate openness, interest and enthusiasm."

Once rapport has been established, the interviewee needs to exhibit flair and quality.

Something that Bostock is keen to establish: "What makes you different?"

Perhaps a "different" approach is needed to stand out.

For example, a willingness to ask open-ended questions to show genuine interest and to elicit more interesting responses.

In contrast to a bland question such as "How many times will I play football in PE?" why not have a question beginning "Could you describe ?"

When it comes to private schooling, we live in competitive times and many parents are focused on the most selective schools in the world - many of which already have waiting lists for candidates wishing to enroll in 2020.

Radley College is one such school.

The senior master of Radley, Harry Hammond, wrote to me regarding the need for candidates to cover all bases - to be academically astute, have a knowledge of world affairs, argue a case and give opinions.

Bostock mentions that Uppingham may look for team players, children with the ability to lead and be decisive and candidates who can build excellent relationships with others.

Independent schools hone children's soft skills, but what experience and evidence of interpersonal skills can children already bring to the table?

Job seekers can also learn a great deal here given the emphasis that employers now put on soft skills. One has to be the real deal in this cutthroat world.

o Samuel Chan is a director at Britannia StudyLink



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