Avoiding interview potholes: tips to help you stand out and make a good impression

Avoiding interview potholes: tips to help you stand out and make a good impression

Standard answers from tutorial centres won’t impress your interviewers. Here are tips from the experts that will help you get noticed at secondary school interviews

Many subsidised schools are now holding interviews, so Young Post got some advice from a pair of experts. They gave us some insider tips on how students can stand out at the interviews.

Chung Foo Mei-ling, chairperson of the Debaters Association, is an experienced advisor for secondary school interviews. She told Young Post some of the common – but unusual – questions:

Why does a tortoise sunbathe?

There are no right or wrong answers for this kind of question. What interviewers are looking for is students’ creativity, common sense, logic, and critical thinking skills. The possible answers are unlimited. You can say they want to kill bacteria, relax, or get vitamin D from the sun.

The school is also looking for students who have gained knowledge from their daily lives, and not just from their studies or tutorials. So when they’re asked something that they haven’t prepared for, they must answer in their own way, based on their logical thinking or personal experience.

How do you make a cup of Horlicks?

This question is testing your ability to look after yourself. It lets the interviewers understand if you are mature enough to manage your own tasks, such as tidying your schoolbags, bringing textbooks, or submitting homework and notice on time. It seems to say: have you ever done any housework or cooking? Can you take care of yourself? But it is really asking: will you depend on your parents to do everything for you, or be proactive to do whatever is asked?

What are your weaknesses?

This is one of the hardest questions, as many students are not willing to share their weaknesses with the interviewers. Chung recommends students to consider how their weaknesses can become their strengths. For example, they can tell interviewers they are not fit enough to play basketball – but that becomes their motivation to do more sports and take part in many extracurricular activities that are good for their health and social life.

They can also share their experience like what lessons they’ve learned from mistakes they’ve made.

How much have you prepared for this interview? Why do you choose this school?

Responses, such as: “It’s my parents’ choice”, “My teachers prepared everything for me”, or “Your school has numerous top scorers for this year’s DSE” will not impress your interviewers. For a question like this, think about why you truly want to study in this school.

Also consider how you can make the school better. For example, if you are strong in sport like swimming, you can say: “I would like to join the swim team as I really like this sport. I know your swim team has had a lot of success, and I would love to become a part of that.”

What do you think about the MTR’s ban on large musical instruments?

This question is really asking: are you concerned about local or international news? Did anything influential happened last year? What have you learned from current affairs? Chung says schools are not looking for copycats or examination machines; they want students who are aware of everything happening around us.

You can talk about whether it is a fair scheme for musicians who carry a cello or a guzheng. What would happen if students or musicians are not allowed to bring their musical instruments? Interviewers are looking for your views, rather than knowledge based on textbooks. Also, they want students who can apply their knowledge in daily life.

If you’re involved in a discussion, try not to dominate or voice your opinions without interacting with others. Interviewers want students who can help quiet, shy candidates contribute something in the discussion. Through the discussion, interviewers will see how you get along with your classmates and teachers.

Other things to keep in mind:

Lau Chi-yuen, principal of Hong Kong Taoist Association Tang Hin Memorial Secondary School says students should be aware of their behaviour and appearance, as moral education is a vital part of the interviews. Consider what a school is looking for:

Be well-behaved: Will you yawn, move a lot or talk to other candidates while waiting for the interview? Remember interviewers are looking at your behaviour to consider if you’re mature enough for secondary life. Lau told Young Post they will blacklist a student who doesn’t behave, such as someone who starts an argument. Restrain yourself and be serious throughout the whole process.

Be polite and confident: Maintain eye contact with interviewers. It makes you seem shy or intimidated if you don’t look at anyone.

Speak up! Don’t mumble or whisper, and let your interviewers hear your views. But remember to choose your words carefully so you don’t say anything rude. Respect yourself and your interviewers.

Look smart: Some students pull their shirts out of their trousers during the interview, but this is not a good time to make yourself look cool. Make sure you are clean and neat.

Give your interviewers a good impression so they can see how serious you are about this interview. How clean you are also shows you can look after yourself.

Be yourself: Many students have prepared a lot for the interviews so standard answers are expected. But mechanical and boring answers will not impress your interviewers. You should give real answers based on your ability or personal experience. Be natural and genuine! This is what the school is looking for.


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