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Preparing your child for their DSA interview and other first interviews

Updated: May 29, 2021

When thinking about interviews, many of us would reflect on our first job interview - it could have been for a part time job while still schooling, or some would have experienced their first job interview when embarking on their career.

In recent times, an interview is a common technique used by schools and scholarship awarding bodies to sieve out the candidate that may be most suitable. In the Singapore context, interviews are part of the process of the Direct School Admission (DSA) exercise, placing the first interview experience for the child to be at age 12. Some Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) in school would also conduct interviews to select their executive committees, lead teams etc. Those looking to prepare their children for higher education abroad, including boarding schools will also encounter interviews as part of the entry process.

An interview can be daunting for anyone, and nerves can become an important factor, especially for young people and teenagers. As a parent, how can you help your child prepare for their first interview?

1. Encourage the right mindset

When coaching and training young people in interview skills, it is important that they recognise their ultimate goal. For us at Discovering Potential there is nothing more crucial then the correct mindset and this is especially so for young people. The ultimate goal is to hone and refine their overall communication skills, including the ability to speak well and confidently at interviews. Interview skills is a life skill that develops over time with experience and practice.

Avoid providing a short term goal for developing communication and interview skills. Focusing on a particular scholarship, or school entrance exam, which he/she needs to do well in as the goal for practicing good interview skills creates one of the toughest barriers for young people - pressure and potential negativity. Instead, focus on the long term, take each interview as experiential and as a learning opportunity. The interview skills they pick up at each opportunity will accumulate and will serve them well as they grow older.

2. Provide guidance on how to do quality research

Knowledge of the school, or the company that they will be interviewing with is invaluable on many fronts. While it does serve the purpose of impressing the interviewers, it is also key that the child knows about the place that they are applying for and develops their own feel for the place.

Encourage them to read the school/company websites, search for related news, focus on any new initiatives that the school/company has embarked on.

Also do encourage consistent research and knowledge of current affairs. Try not to make this into a cramming session just before an interview. If possible, instill the habit without any pending interview, so that it does not become a challenge of memorising the newspaper but to develop a broad overall knowledge of what matters to the world and the society. An experienced interviewer will be able to sieve out someone who has crammed facts in for the sole purpose of regurgitation during an interview, and someone else who has an inherent broad based knowledge of the world.

3. Visualise the interview

The more you know about the format of the interview, the less nerves the child usually has to deal with. If its possible, find out if its a panel of interviewers and how many interviewers will be there. Is It a group interview with many interviewees together or is there only 1 interviewee? Occasionally, the format of the interview may take the form of a group activity, where the interviewers observe the candidates, rather than ask direct questions. Knowing the format and visualising how it will look, will help the child to feel more prepared.

4. Brainstorm some key questions including "Tell me about yourself".

The most difficult question for children and youths to answer is usually "tell me about yourself". It is not a common question in their daily life, and most will feel very awkward about it. Have a go at brainstorming possible answers to this question and consider brainstorming on other common questions like "What do you like about our school or why do you want to work here".

5. Practice, but balance the amount of coaching done at home

Practice does make perfect, but sometimes over practicing with children at home may cause more nervousness. Do remember that every child is different. Taking an answer from Google and coaching the child to memorise the answer usually does not result in an ideal situation. We find that tailoring answering techniques to the child's personality works best especially in the long term as it presents the most natural and most effective long term learning method.

6. Reflect on the interview after its done

Keep the positive mindset consistent from the time he/she has been offered an interview till after the interview. Focusing on the long term means treating each interview as a learning opportunity. Encourage using the learning points to build confidence for future communication and interview opportunities. An interview is very much like a sport - you don't necessarily win each time, but you definitely learn something each time you play.

Written by: Siew Ling Hwang, Founder and Principal Interview Coach, Discovering Potential


Ms Siew Ling Hwang, has extensive experience interviewing and training candidates for various industries and schools. She specialises in conducting 1-on-1 training for those seeking to improve their interview skills for school interviews and job interviews. She is also a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and NLP Coaching, as well as a Certified Advanced Behavioural Analyst. Her unique skillset in combining real world practices, NLP Coaching techniques and personality and behavioural expertise provides our clients with an effective session to achieve real improvements that are suited to their own natural personalities.

#interviewskills #interviewskillscoaching #communicationskills #interviewadvice

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