In order to impress a potential employer, top notch communication skills, a clean resume, eye contact and a firm handshake could make the difference between getting hired or not.
Recently, 165 freshmen from Pepperell High School had a taste of what its like to vie for employment at the school’s mock interview program.
Alana Ellenburg, High School 101 teacher at Pepperell, helped spearhead the event with John Pillsbury, the community volunteer coach for the school.
Ellenburg said the course teaches students communication skills, people skills, business jargon, personal finance and other real life skills that help students connect what they learn in the classroom to having a career in life beyond school.
In the days prior to the mock interviews, the students were taught how to dress, sit, shake hands, how to fill out resumes, the importance of continuously updating resumes and other do’s and don’ts of interviewing for jobs.
Nearly 30 professionals throughout the community came to interview the students and Ellenburg said the interviewers often commented that the freshmen were more prepared than some adults they’ve encountered.
The students, she said, are grateful that the skills are taught to them early and also for the experiences they gain from High School 101.
“My juniors and seniors walk in and they’ll say, ‘I got a job because of you and your class,’” Ellenburg said. “Seeing your students dress for success and go through the interviews… it’s such a great process.”
Jo Hibberts, an interviewer from Georgia Power, said she thought the mock interviews and the course were paramount to students’ successes.
“I think this 101 program for the freshmen at Pepperell is excellent, I wish every school could do it,” she said. “It really prepares kids as they transition from middle school into the high school and it helps them a lot.”
Hibberts also commended Ellenburg and Pillsbury for putting the experience together for students.
“They work with the students for days on those interview skills and writing their resumes and then when they come to the volunteers to mock interview, it gives the students an opportunity of what it would feel like to really interview for a job and make them more comfortable,” she said.
Knowing that the more students went through the interview process the more confident they were, Hibberts said that it actually helps not only the students, but everyone.
“As I had students come to me, I may have been the second or third person that interviewed them, I asked them if it felt better than the one before, and it did,” she said. “The more practice they get, the better off we all are. These are our workforce of the future.”
Floyd County Superintendent Jeff McDaniel was among the interviewers and said the students all did a phenomenal job.
“I was very impressed with each and every one of the applicants that came for their mock interviews,” McDaniel said. “They dressed professionally, they asked good questions, they had those soft skills in mind. I know they’ll use those skills to move forward.”
In fact, McDaniel heard that the mock interviews were indeed practice runs for several of the students already.
“Three of those students actually had interviews after that and they all got real jobs,” McDaniel said, adding “It just doesn't get any better than that.”