Test-Driving the Job Interview – A Vital Piece of Career Readiness

Special Note: This week, we’re happy to welcome a guest blog post from our Project Manager at NC3T, Kandice Dickover.

It’s just impressive when high school students dress up in suits and ties, and skirts and dresses, and are able to confidently impart their skills and abilities in an interview setting – even if it is just a mock interview. Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down with a number of students to “interview” them as an employer or in the role of a college admissions counselor as part of a high school Junior Interview Clinic. As a parent of two sons at our local school, Atholton High School, and as a hiring agent for our organization, I look forward to participating in this event each year to help the students practice their skills and build their confidence.

I was delighted at how professional the majority of these students looked and acted as they attended the interviews. As interviewers, we were given scoring sheets which addressed eye contact, handshake, sociability, confidence, ability to speak clearly and concisely, and their resume. We were provided with some sample starter questions and encouraged to hold the interview and then debrief the students afterward by reviewing their strengths and where they could improve. These students performed above many of the adults that I vetted and interviewed for employment positions over the past few years as part of my own job. I was pleasantly surprised at how articulate and confident they were, how well they conducted themselves, as well as presenting a well-laid out (and error-free!) resume. You wouldn’t believe the number of inarticulate cover letters and resumes filled with misspellings, incorrect grammar, and unprofessional language that I’ve received for positions that advertised we were looking for a “detail-oriented” professional. The handshake, poor eye contact, and inability to be concise and answer the questions that were asked, really make a huge impression on employers and so these student mock interviews provide a much-needed opportunity to see how it’s done right.

Like many other school districts around the country, ours in Maryland requires all students to complete the “World of Work” requirement, or something like it, to graduate. In their junior year, students work on writing cover letters and resumes in their English classes and work with counselors in Student Services to discuss interviewing skills and what to expect. Then they invite employer partners and parents to help with the Junior Interview Clinic as a culminating event so students see how their work ties in with the “real world.”

Don’t take this kind of program for granted. I realize that this type of work has been around since the ’90s as part of a Career Development and exploration effort. Some educators have been involved in doing this for 15-20 years and by this point, it may just seem hum-drum and not often considered. I’d like to encourage you to take another look at your program, revitalize it, make sure it’s up-to-date and encourage these efforts as a way to prepare students for the working world and/or preparation for college.  As a parent and employer, these programs really make the difference and as a bonus, it’s a great way to involve your employer partners!

Kandice Dickover is the Project Manager at NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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