Last week I was invited to participate on a panel to interview ROP students for a mock company. These junior and senior high school students had been provided with sample interview questions, as well as information about the fake company so that they could prepare properly. We were told we didn’t have to stick to the list of questions provided… we were to ask whatever we thought would be helpful and appropriate based on how the 10-minute interview progressed with each student.
After each interview, the student was asked to step outside while we compared our notes. The student came back in and we gave them our compliments and constructive criticism with the hope that the feedback will give them a step ahead of the crowd entering the summer workforce.
It was fun, encouraging and a little surprising.
I think I saw a range that was to be expected. One student stood out quite a bit, even though he was shy. I would have hired him on the spot. One student needed a lot of guidance with the interview process. The rest did very well in the middle.
Here are some takeaway points that were gathered. This is in addition to the tips we should be providing people on how to answer “why should I hire you” types of questions:
- Boys/Men should wear a belt. Most know that a tie is key to a business look, but not one male realized they should finish the job with the belt. Actually, I didn’t notice this – the men on the panel pointed it out. Once they did, I realized they were right.
- Girls/Women shouldn’t show cleavage. The men either didn’t notice (which I doubt) or didn’t have the nerve to mention it during our note-comparison discussion, but I brought it up. No one was comfortable telling this to the young lady when we debriefed her, so I passed the information on to the teacher and left it up to her discretion.
- Learn how to shake hands! This takes practice. We practiced for a few minutes with one student. The older adults know that the handshake is a critical component of the first impression.
- Learn about the company! Too many students did not have real knowledge about the company, even though they were given the same information the panel was given. That was probably my biggest surprise. All they had to do was read a 2-page document.
- Don’t downplay skills. One student mentioned her typing skills were “only about average… 50 words per minute.” She should have confidently stated that her “typing speed is an accurate 50 words per minute.” Her skills are respectable and not less than people would expect from a 17-year old. Why put it down by calling it average?
In fact, the students tended to downplay their skills. They were nervous and didn’t realize what they really had to offer a company. Some had trouble answering the basic interview questions, which I assume is either because of their nerves or because they didn’t practice. Which leaves me to one last suggestion, which I’m sure they’ve heard before: Practice. Practice with family members, practice in front of a mirror, practice with a video camera, practice with friends, or practice with whoever and whatever will listen.
I have to admit, while sitting there asking questions and listening to the answers of these brave young adults (and they were brave due to the intimidating circumstances – they were getting a grade on how well they performed), I wondered how I was at interviewing at their age. I can’t really know because time skews our memories, but I have a feeling they did a pretty good job in comparison. I really was proud of them.
I don’t know how many high schools offer this kind of training for their entire student population. My next task is going to see how we can expand the training program our high school provides for ROP students to the rest of the student population. I’d like to see all of our local students have the best opportunity to get the job they want.
This post was written expressly for the Career Kids Blog by Linda Schwartz. Linda is Partner at Career Kids, the web's premier source for educational materials on careers, guidance, life skills, job search and workforce development.