Preparing kids for interviews (e.g. 11+)

Kavin Wadhar
July 21, 2020

Interviews are a part of life and they are not going away. People hire people, and normally they only have 30 – 60 minutes to figure out if you are a good fit for them. This goes for adults in the workplace, but also for children with certain schools. If your child has an interview coming up e.g. for 11+ independent school entrance in the UK, then this will likely be the first of many in their life.

Interviewing well is a great skill to develop.

Take a quick look at this list of classic interview questions, for 11+ and for real job interviews. Do you see how similar the questions for kids are to the questions for grown-ups?

11+ interview question / grown-up job interview question

  1. Tell me about yourself? / Tell me about yourself?
  2. Why do you want to go to this school? / Why do you want to work for this company?
  3. What is your favourite subject? / What do you like doing?
  4. What do you do in your spare time? / What are your interests outside work?
  5. Tell me about something in the news at the moment? / What is going on in our industry at the moment?
  6. What do you want to be when you grow up? / Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  7. What book are you reading? / What business book or podcast are you into right now?
  8. What are your key strengths and weaknesses? / What are your key strengths and weaknesses?
  9. Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge? / Tell me about a time you overcame a challenge?
  10. Tell me about a time you did something with your friends? / Tell me about a time you worked effectively as a team?

If you are prepping your child for interviews then keep reading as I will do 3 things:

First – I will summarise and share links for the best articles I have found for 11+ interview preparation.

Second – I will draw from my own personal experience of being interviewee and interviewer many times in my life.

Third – I will leave you with a very practical suggestion to help your kids at home straight away! Hint: it's this awesome App.

1)    11+ interview guidance from experts

There is lots of material out there on this, so let me help you by summarising some of the best stuff.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Afrosa Ahmed recently. She has written this practical and concise book to help parents prepare for independent school interviews, drawing from her own experience as a Mum whose 2 boys succeeded in this and as a Doctor who has interviewed numerous medical school hopefuls.

With her permission I have copied a bit below that I found quite helpful:

“They are looking for those who are ABLE:

  • PersonABLE –what your your child is like beyond the classroom; which will go on to discuss their hobbies and interests.
  • TeachABLE – able to learn, and if necessary be willing to unlearn and relearn.
  • ChallengABLE – discuss topical issues; see other viewpoints and critically analyse them.
  • ConscionABLE – Discovering their thoughts on moral issues; euthanasia, climate control, for example
  • KnowledgeABLE – they may be given some English and Maths questions; they want to understand how your child arrived at their answer
  • SupportABLE – how does your child interact with their peers, are they a team player?
  • ComfortABLE – will they fit into this school?”

And here is the best of the rest – sharing below some advice by tutors who have been through the 11+ process many times. The overall sentiment is to help your child feel natural, relaxed and confident – which is good advice for grown-up interviews also!

  • “The key to doing well in the interview is to be confident but not arrogant and to answer questions in detail” (The Tutoress)
  • “Keep remembering that a good school interview feels like a conversation rather than a test, and enjoy playing your part in it, but don’t be overconfident: pause and consider the question before answering, rather than jumping in with something hasty” (MyTutorClub)
  • “Simple matters like shaking hands, making eye contact whilst doing so and not sitting until being invited to do so will go a long way” (OwlTutors)

2)    My personal experience

I have been interviewee and interviewer many times in my life. Starting with my own 7+ and 11+ independent school experience many years ago, then Cambridge University selection interviews, then for my first job as a Strategy Consultant, and then 5 other jobs after that. Nowadays I tend to be the interviewer and I have lost count of how many candidates I have spoken to.

Overall, I have found that the more articulate and confident I became, the better I interviewed. I discovered that it was not about knowing the answer, rather that you are able to express what you are thinking and how you would approach a situation. I am always telling my own kids this nowadays!

Back at Cambridge I probably just scraped through since the interviews went so-so. I had applied for Engineering and I remember being shown a schematic of a jet engine and being asked for my thoughts. I was like a rabbit caught in headlights -seeing all these turbine blades and other complex looking machinery and wondering what on earth was going on. I remember I nearly said “But we haven’t been taught this yet” and checked myself to instead say “Wow, I ‘ve never seen this before. I wonder what this bit does.” I think the curiosity and enthusiasm for learning I displayed just about got me through!

Later in the Corporate world, I did the rounds with Strategy Consulting companies. These interviews are notorious for testing how you think. It is always about the thought process and never about the answer. For instance I have been asked all of the following: “How much bread gets sold each year in the UK?”; “How much money does the London Eye make each year?”; “What would you do with a 1 million dollars?” etc Each time it was tempting to blurt out “A lot!” or “I don’t know!” but instead I learned to lean into the problem – accepting I didn’t know the answer but there is a way we could think about it (e.g. 70 million people in UK, assume each spends £1 a week on bread etc)

Ultimately people are trying to figure out whether they can work with you – in the classroom or the office floor. They want curious people who ask good questions and who aren’t afraid to be a little uncomfortable.

3)    A super practical suggestion for your kids

So given all this, how can we simply but effectively prepare our children for interviews – be it the 11+ or any future job interviews?

First of all, I want to be clear about something:

We can’t game the system, nor should we try. Interviewers can spot over-rehearsed children a mile off.

And anyway we shouldn’t anyway be seeing interviews as a test to pass to get in to the school / business of choice.

Instead let’s see interviews as a mutual sense-check of whether the school / business and the candidate are right for each other.

To do that both sides need to be at ease and sharing with the other their genuine selves.

When preparing your child you are simply helping them let their best selves shine through.

However, this does not happen if your child lacks confidence, can’t communicate clearly or gets unsettled when asked something challenging.

So do this with them regularly!

Ask them challenging questions every day. Push back on their thinking each time. Get them talking and expressing their thoughts and feelings on a wide range of subjects frequently.

How great would it be if your child is always “ready” for an interview, since you have groomed them to be the type of person who can think on their feet, ask good questions to figure out a situation and build rapport with the person they are talking to?

Here are some examples of fantastic questions for 7-11 year old children in particular, which need only take 5 minutes but can build talking / thinking / feeling skills –

💬 To get them talking:

  • How do you describe a car to an alien?
  • How would you summarise the article on today’s front page?
  • Should children be allowed to set their own bedtime?

💭 To get them thinking:

  • How many iPads are there in the UK?
  • How would you reduce traffic on the roads?
  • Say you discovered a new country, what would be the first 3 laws that you pass?

🤍 To get them feeling:

  • Why is it good to fail sometimes?
  • What does a confident person look like?
  • How does your best friend make you feel?

If you want to do more on a regular basis - and I really recommend you do - then check out

Here we have hundreds of guided conversations that get kids talking, thinking and feeling….and in doing so are perfect preparation for any upcoming interview. These are conversations that any parent can have (and we give you guidance / prompts if you need them) and the feedback from parents is that it is also a wonderfully fresh way to spend time with their kids!

I wish you the best of luck and if you need any advice then please email me at will be happy to help!

👉You may also wish to join a special Facebook group we have created for parents preparing for 11+ interviews. 👈


Dad of 2 kids

Founder of KidCoachApp

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Written by
Kavin Wadhar

Kavin left a comfortable corporate role to pursue his passion. He has built KidCoachApp, which provides parents with hundreds of guided conversations for parents to get their kids talking, thinking and feeling - and building skills they will need to thrive. He lives in London with his wife and 2 kids.

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