Spring has arrived, the children have returned to school and we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if we aren’t sure when we will be able to book a flight without the complications of a vaccine passport or quarantine, things are definitely looking up.
It’s an accepted fact that if you study hard and focus well at school you will get better grades, and in turn more opportunities in life. This is definitely true so please don’t give up encouraging and supporting your child. But many are anxious that their child’s education and wellbeing have suffered over the last 12 months. So what can we do to improve their future prospects and prepare them better for what lies ahead?
Having conducted numerous online mock interviews for 10 and 11 year old children over the past four months, I have been lucky enough to see how a written record of a child’s achievements at school, extracurricular activities and hobbies, AND performance at interview all play an incredibly important part in the school selection process.
Using my experience as a television presenter my aim is always to help children present the best version of themselves on screen while also making sure their CVs are a very good read rather than just a record of achievement. But .... there are two secret ingredients that can help to seal the deal and secure a big tick next to your child’s name in interview: content and confidence.
If your child is invited to interview, they need to ignite the interest of the interviewer. They need to stand out and make the interviewer think, “Yes. I could definitely see this child in this school. He/she is more interesting than the child I have just seen,” leading to a big tick next to your child’s name. So, how can you help your child to elicit this response?
I think the answer here lies in having an in depth conversation that gives more information than could ever be fitted into a bio.
If your son says his favourite subject is biology, encourage him to link this to something outside the classroom such as one of David Attenborough’s television series. He should be allowed a TV binge - he loves biology after all - and he will have many examples to talk about in interview, demonstrating why the animal world is so fascinating.
If your daughter loves reading Greek Myths, help her to learn a bit more about Ancient Greece, the buildings and the authors. She should be able to share a few Greek Myths in detail, and perhaps you could take this further and link her interest to Ancient Rome. One of my favourite historical DVDs is Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire.
If your daughter is keen on horseriding, she might want to read Horse and Hound for inspiration, follow the Cheltenham Festival this week and have an opinion about Rob James's recent 12 months ban for taking that photograph of himself with a dead horse. She could also watch Seabiscuit or Black Beauty, or read Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse.
And when your son tells you that he wants to be an architect, encourage him to watch back episodes of Grand Designs or Dream Home Makeover, or learn more about Brunelleschi, Leonardo Da Vinci or Antonio Gaudi.
As well as considering content in an interview, it’s important to help your child feel confident, after all it's often said that if you believe you can, you’re halfway there. The most important thing for any child to build on in advance of an interview is confidence. Anyone who wants to impress has to try to do so without sounding monotone, bored or looking away from the screen. Confidence is key and children often need to be told that smiling a little and being enthusiastic are very important. Online, it’s important to sit up - not slouch back in the chair - frame yourself well in the screen (not too big and not too small), pay attention to the lighting and ensure the background is not too distracting.
In addition, practicing an interview with a close family friend or tutor will ensure that confidence builds in advance of the interview. In my sessions, I focus on helping a child go from good to great by suggesting easy ‘homework’, such as watching a YouTube video or reading information from a website. In my experience, the more interested your child is in the things on their list of ‘things to discuss at interview”, the more likely they are to be engaging, fully animated and passionate in a discussion.
To help with this, make sure you sit down to a family meal as often as you can. This will be the easiest way to encourage discussions and debate, something all schools are looking for and something that not many families find time for. And if you can’t do this, perhaps the walk or the drive school would work for you - a time when conversation flows naturally and you can have an easy conversation about what they have learnt. This will give them the confidence to talk naturally in an interview and extend the conversation beyond simple questions and answers.
Delve into your child’s real interests: music, drama, sport, television, current affairs, books, history or science. And don’t go with what you think they ought to be experts in, go with where their real passions lie.
Just take some time to look at the CV, the activities your child is doing outside school and their general knowledge particularly around the things they are interested in and you will be on the way to taking their interview performance from good to great!
Next time, I’ll be sharing the questions often asked at interview and looking at some tricks and tips that will help your child answer them.
Until then, goodbye!
For a practice interview session with feedback to assess how ready your child is for interview, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
And to learn how these sessions helped others, click here.