With dress shirts pressed, flyaways tamed and resumes in hand, Mt. Pleasant Community High School students taking classes in economics, personal finance and workplace readiness sat down across from employers in Mt. Pleasant for their first-ever interviews.
The nerves might have been real, but the interviews were just for practice on Wednesday, Jan. 8. The Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance arranged for employers to be present at the school for mock interviews to give students a taste of what it’s like to enter the workplace.
“A lot of the kids were really nervous,” said Jeff Batey, economics teacher at MPCHS. “That’s good because it means they’re taking it seriously. It’s about getting through those nerves and having the chance to sit down and ask questions about how they can do better (during a job interview).”
Students were evaluated by interviewers according to a mock interview rubric created by the teachers. They were graded on first impression, general attitude and content of answers. Interviewers considered whether students greeted them with a firm handshake, had confident body language, wore appropriate professional attire, were interested and enthusiastic, asked questions, spoke clearly and were able to carry on a conversation.
Batey incorporates a job skills project into his economics class each year, but he felt like it was time to refresh it a little. That’s when he brought in the Chamber to organize 10 employers to come to the high school to do mock interviews with students.
Batey said he has heard from kids in their first year in college who attend job fairs that they don’t really know what to do. This was a combination of a job fair and mock interview, where students could ask about the profession and learn some skills along the way.
“Hopefully someone gets a job today,” Batey said with a laugh. “There are seniors who are looking for jobs next semester. It would be neat if that happens.”
Amanda Reisma, a business education teacher at MPCHS, said the mock interview puts students in real-life situations. Many of her students haven’t sat through a formal interview. In her personal finance and career-readiness classes, Reisma had students prepare a resume and cover letter, which they spent four days revising. They also did peer-to-peer interviews in class to prepare them for the mock interview Wednesday.
Sadie Hartsock, a junior taking a personal finance class, said she felt prepared for the typical interview questions revolving around her experience, qualifications and job skillets.
Libby Ensminger, a junior taking economics, said she was a little nervous but felt that the mock interview introduced her to what will be expected in a real interview.
“I’m working on not saying ‘um’ and slowing down when I talk,” Ensminger said.
Junior economics student Nadia Beachy said the mock interview helped her learn to answer questions on the spot.
Junior personal finance student Kamdyn Parker said she feels “way better” about any future interviews.
“I know now not to be as nervous and to keep eye contact with the interviewer,” Parker said.
Maximus Hernandez, junior personal finance student, said he learned more about the careers he “interviewed” for and how to be a better interviewee.
“The take-away is not to over-explain. Keep it short and sweet and focused,” Hernandez said.
Dallas English, branch manager at Advance Services Inc., said he participated in mock interviewing the kids because he enjoys helping out the high school.
English said he interviews job candidates every week and has a good perspective to share with students as far as what interviewers are looking for. Mock interview was a good way for students to “get the jiggers out,” he said.
“A positive attitude, enthusiasm, confidence, it’s not as much what you say, but how you say it,” English said.