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Thursday 07-May-2015
【The Standard:Study in the UK】Five most common interview mistakes that will surprise you!

A major problem for interviewees is underestimating the preparation part of the process. Candidates applying to some of the most elite institutions in the western world must whole-heartedly prepare right down to the minutest of details.


When asked why Cardiff Sixth Form College has to interview all their candidates, Executive Director, Yasmin Sarwar, answered: “we need to separate the well trained from the well brained!” The College turns down over 700 candidates each year.


It is saddening when I find out that very bright and ambitious students have been refused because they failed to show their true potential at interview.


These are the five most common interview mistakes I have come across among Hong Kong students - with methods to correct them:


1. Shyness:

Speaking too softly or too quickly is perhaps the most common mistake for international students. It is caused by insecurities related to mispronouncing certain words or making grammatical mistakes. With rapid speech, the interviewer may miss key points.


Students must breathe slowly, believe in themselves and have a “this is my ONE shot at the big time” mindset.


2. Failing to ask questions

Schools know that you have also applied to many of their competitors! Students should never lose sight of the word “inter-view”. Interaction is at the heart of the matter.


Candidates should write questions in a professional-looking diary or notebook. Make sure these are questions which are not addressed on the school’s website.


3. Lack of eye contact

Eye contact is important because it conveys a sense of confidence and honesty when speaking, and paying attention while listening.


When the interviewer is divulging important information or talking about interesting topics, let your eyes open wide and light up. It shows you are generally interested in the talk.


4. Appearing distracted or uninterested

When you are nervous you try to cover up signs of nerves. This may inadvertently disguise your interest in the conversation too.


Keep in mind that you are going to spend a good few years at the school so learn some names of the houses and buildings. Check out the school and APPEAR INTERESTED.


5. Fidgeting and body position

It can be difficult to know where to place your hands and feet during a formal interview. Candidates have to be cautious about showing disrespect to the interviewer as he will pick up signs from your posture and body language.


Sit straight in your chair and keep facing the interviewer. Keep your feet on the ground. Do not be afraid to use gestures to emphasise points. However, do not exaggerate your actions.


Hong Kong candidates are normally of a very high standard. According to the ISA we send the most number of students of all countries in the world to the UK every year! So it all boils down to emotional control and attitude.


Take a deep breath and practise with your best friend!

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Education Experts

Samuel Chan, the winner of Alumni Awards 2017, is the founder of Britannia. He had studied in the UK since the age of 9 for 15 years and achieved his master degree in International Political Economy at University of Warwick. Now he shares his experiences and professional advice in education columns in Hong Kong’s major newspapers.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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