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Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (December 14, 2013)

There’s been a wave of attention and supply of ‘interview classes’ for children. Recently, I saw a picture of a bus ad about a ‘BB interview’ class. As the pressure looms for parents to find a much-coveted spot in a kindergarten or Primary school for children, the demand for ‘interviewing training’ has risen and has even now become a norm for children and parents. Tiger parents rush to enroll and pay sizeable amounts of money to attend training courses to learn how to groom their child for an interview and then children are enrolled into intensive training classes where they learn to give the right answers in upcoming interviews.

I am not a supporter of these interview classes. Instead of grooming, moulding and training a child to perform well in one interview, I would much rather spend that time in developing his social skills – social skills that will help him thrive in any environment he goes to, not just in an interview setting. If we’re just emphasizing on looking at people in the eye for an interview, does it mean we don’t value it in other settings? If we just groom children to give the ‘right answers’ in an interview, does it mean they should always rote learn the ‘right answer’ for all other occasions?

I’m a firm believer of educating a child in values, manners and social skills. But not for the sake of an interview. These things are needed in all social environments and I believe that if we can constantly teach and educate children in the areas of values, manners, and social skills, we won’t need to mould them to have those things specifically for one interview.

These are some things I think we can constantly be teaching our children and I remember them best when I use body parts as a reminder:

1) EYES: Eye contact – Learning to have eye contact is important not because the interviewer will penalize you if you don’t but because having eye contact is a basic sign of respect. Having eye contact tells the person you are talking to that you are interested in the conversation, that you are listening and that you also care to see his facial expressions. Lay down ground rules for your child that if he doesn’t look people in the eye when saying something, he has to say it all over again.

2) EARS: Listen to instruction – Listening to instructions doesn’t just take place in interviews but in every day life. Students have to listen to teachers, parents, caregivers and many others. Listening to others is also a sign of respect. If children are taught to listen to instructions well in the home and at school, they will likely listen to others elsewhere too. If they learn that they can get away with not listening to instructions, for example if they don’t tidy their room when they should and a helper does it for them, they will learn that they can get away with not listening. That’s not a habit you want to nurture.

3) MOUTH: Speaking with manners – Words like ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘may I?’ and ‘I’m sorry’ shouldn’t be pulled out for use in an interview, they should be used on a regular basis. If children don’t learn to have manners in their daily lives, it shouldn’t be expected of them to have them in a foreign interview setting. Make manners a priority and it will become a child’s habit. If your child doesn’t say ‘please’ when he wants something, don’t give it to him.

4) HANDS: Sharing – Hands are used for sharing toys, for handing a tissue to someone who’s crying, for patting someone on the back when they are doing something well. First we must role model these behaviours to children so that they learn that hands are for loving others and for sharing. If they can learn to do these things on a regular basis, it will become normal to play with others and to share toys during the group interviews and other play settings.

Prepare your children for life and not just for interviews – life lasts much longer.

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