For the last few years, Mary Goedken, language arts teacher at Muscatine High School, has asked me to be a volunteer interviewer for her students. I have enjoyed the opportunity and have helped many prepare for their future job and college interviews.
Goedken says, “the purpose of the mock interviews are to provide the English 12/composition students with the opportunity to practice their interviewing skills in an environment similar to an actual interview. Students prepared references, resumes, and cover letters. Students become familiar with interview questions and etiquette. There are many benefits to doing a mock interview. For example, students learn to think on their feet.” I always ask open-ended questions and work to ask follow-up questions to get the students to think through possible questions and how they will answer. “They learn to dress appropriately for the interview or job, they learn to be prepared, and they answer questions with confidence,” she added.
Goedken continued, “students learn the fine aspects of non-verbal communication and the importance of soft skills, as well. Students receive feedback from the adult interviewers, not just what they did well, but areas they can improve upon.” For several students, I even pause during the interview, and ask what might have been a more appropriate response. We discuss and re-formulate an improved response. When I see one of the students not taking notes during our discussion, I suggest taking a reminder note is a key learning point for this exercise and discussion. Goedken likes that her students are getting another opinion and hearing another voice about their business documents and how things are in the job market after high school and college.
I am not the only volunteer for this learning opportunity. Goedken appreciates the many community members and counselors helping us with the mock interview. It really does make a positive difference with her students.
Some students are really nervous; as an experienced interviewer I know when an applicant is nervous. It is not uncommon for these students, and so a calm approach and friendly smile to start the interview helps immensely. Once we complete the interview, the students feel more comfortable with the process. This teaches life-long, relevant skills.
Though the students’ experiences are limited, I try to ask behavior-based questions. When experience is limited, I probe for how the learner may react to a certain quality or to a problem situation. In particular, I try to introduce the need for reasoning to solve problems. I try to instill in them the wisdom of an old quotation, “don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions.”
These learners may not be skilled at problem-solving, yet here is a wonderful opportunity to introduce the concept. When I recognize a struggle, I begin with the issue and ask open-ended questions, even stopping the interview to focus on a skill. As Goedken says. “this teaches life-long, relevant skills.” I am fortunate to be part of the process.