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Business professionals help students hone interview skills

POSTED: March 6, 2014 12:04 a.m.
Crystal Ledford/

Lambert High School student Haley Naylor introduces herself to Todd Sentell before her mock interview with him in the school’s media center. School system leaders are looking for business people to conduct mock interviews at all of the county’s high schools this month.

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SOUTH FORSYTH — Haley Naylor opted for a navy blue business suit Monday rather than the typical student attire of jeans and a T-shirt.

“I have a couple of go-to business outfits,” she said.

And that’s a good thing, since she was one of several Lambert High School students who had the opportunity Monday and Tuesday to take part in a series of mock interviews.

Other juniors and seniors around Forsyth County will also have a chance to take part in the program at their respective schools this month and in April.  

Valery Hall, the local school system’s governance and career development coordinator, said the mock interviews are a new offering.

“It’s the first time we’ve done this as a community and a county,” she said. “We had experienced this program through another community to see if it would be a good fit here.

“So we came back and talked about it with our Partners in Education and Workforce Advisory Committee and everybody was in agreement that this was a good thing.”

The program is being offered to juniors and seniors enrolled in a third-year career pathway course or work-based learning, where they spend part of the school day at a job.

Business people from throughout the community are being invited to serve as interviewers at all the different schools.

“We are still looking for more business and industry [representatives] in the community, parents, really any community volunteers that want to come and give of their time to make this a rewarding experience for our students,” Hall said.

“For our business community, it allows them to get ingrained in what the kids are working on. I think a lot of them, after they’ve seen their resumes and talked with them, they’re very impressed with all that our students are juggling, even with the part-time employment that a lot of them have.”

While Lambert’s interviews were Monday and Tuesday, the program continues with interviewers needed at North Forsyth next Monday and Tuesday, Forsyth Central on March 17 and 18, South Forsyth on March 24 and 25, and West Forsyth on April 14-16.

“We’ll be running about 1,000 students through the process throughout all five schools,” Hall said.

“Hopefully in future years, we’ll be able to make this something for ninth through 12th grades, so they can have several opportunities to interview.”

About 15 business people took part in Lambert’s interviews. They all seemed pleased to have a chance to give back to the students.

“We’re always willing to do anything with any of the schools when we’re asked,” said Brenda Howell, business development manager at Billy Howell Ford. “I think it’s good to teach the young people how to interview.”

Susan O’Donnell said her work was a perfect fit for the event.

“I work with Vanguard Management Group as a recruiter,” she said. “I thought I could help the students because there are four or five questions that are always asked, and I have been asking them the most difficult one — have you failed at anything and how have you recovered from that?

“A lot of these kids don’t think they have failed at anything, so I’ve had to coach them through that to say, ‘OK, look at your volunteer experience, your school groups, did everything really always go perfectly?’ When they really sit back and think about it, they realize that, no, everything didn’t and that they had to work to fix it.”

All the students who took part in the experience seemed grateful to the volunteers.

“It’s a great opportunity to get a feel for what a real interview is like,” said junior Ricky Merchant, who someday wants to go into the legal field.

“Personally, I haven’t had a job yet or a chance to be in a real interview, so getting to do this today was a real good opportunity for me so I could learn about how they work and get some advice.”

He said his interviewer, O’Donnell, gave him some great pointers.

“She told me where I went wrong in the interview and things I could do to fix it and things on my resume that I could add and things I needed to change,” he said.

Naylor felt the same about her chance.

“I’m interviewing this year for the first time so it’s really exciting,” she said. “I’ve been in all these business classes since I was a freshman and it’s really cool to apply what I’ve learned.

“It’s really nice to have a chance to practice with someone who I don’t know because I know they’ll judge more fairly.”

She said while she was a little nervous at first, the experience ended up being a positive one.

“It’s fun as a high schooler to dress up for a day and act like you’re a professional.”

 

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