What We Could Learn From the 11 Plus

The title alone will severely limit the interested audience, as the 11 Plus is a concept that even at its ‘height’ was restricted to England and Wales.

The premise was that children in their last year of primary education (aged 11 – 12) took a test to narrow down their options for their secondary education. The better they did on the 11+ the more choices they had. I wish I had ‘failed’ mine way back in 1978, going to an all boys school absolutely sucked.

A friend of mine’s daughter had recently gone through the process, and like me he was amazed at the questions being asked. This was not a straightforward maths/english/reasoning test, this was a test of character that put to shame my interview techniques as a Senior Manager in charge of adult security consultants. Should I be unfortunate enough to ever be the manager of people again, I will be using these questions:

Why should you get priority over other children for a place in this school? – How would YOU answer that question, or what answer would you be looking for?! Say the wrong thing and you’ll come across as arrogant, insecure, indecisive, desperate, disinterested or a combination of several of these.

List 3 things you are good at or like doing. – Generally speaking, people like doing the things they’re good at and dislike things they aren’t. Sadly most people don’t KNOW they’re bad at something, so a question like this can help weed out the humble from the potentially deluded.

What is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to you? – Personally I would dismiss anyone saying anything about work. Passion for your chosen career is one thing, but someone without other interests is to me rather suspect.

Is there anything that I haven’t asked you about that you would like to tell me? – This one’s a doozy! Do I say no and let the person think there’s nothing more to me, do I say something and perhaps come across as trying too hard or do I ramble on because I’m nervous and end up boring the hell out the interviewer?

The above were good, but the next one was to me astounding;

Is life fair?

Bear in mind this is being asked of an ELEVEN year old, but now think about the answer you would give. No it’s not fair is whiney, yes it is fair is delusional, which leaves the only real answer; life is neither fair nor unfair, it just is. It is surprising just how many people cannot accept this.

Life is what YOU make of it, so any answer outside of that speaks volumes to the person you’re interviewing. If they consider life unfair then they are clearly not taking full responsibility for their own actions, anyone who thinks life is fair has likely never been truly tested and makes the following quote rather appropriate;

“I’ve never met a strong person with an easy past.”

Experience is one thing, you can read that on a person’s LinkedIn page, character is something else and rarely glimpsed during the interview process. Perhaps by asking questions we would ask our own children we can change that.

If you think I'm wrong, please tell me why!

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