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Students get crash course on job-interviewing

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Eighteen-year-old Shari Aluc participated in an interview, Tuesday, quietly expressing her interests and professional qualities, as prompted by her interviewer.

The Locust Grove High School senior said she was not nervous, though she appeared somewhat apprehensive, during her first-ever interview. Aluc performed relatively well, for a first-timer, according to Diana Marquez, a work-based learning instructor, and chairperson of the high school's Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) Department.

Marquez helped organize Tuesday's Mock Job Interview Fair, which continues today at the school. She said the event, the first for Locust Grove High, is designed to give students a practical application of the interviewing process. The curriculum for CTAE students includes learning how to fill out hard-copy job applications, and how to create resumes and business letters.

"They're glad they did it, because they feel more prepared," Marquez said. "Some didn't even know how to fill out a job application [before]."

During this week's, two-day job interview fair, about 30 adults from the industries of retail, education, banking, and government are conducting mock interviews with more than 350 CTAE students, mostly juniors and seniors.

"Our goal is to be able to provide students with a real-world experience," said the work-based learning instructor. "If they come away from this today with a little more confidence, and can be able to say, 'Hey, I can do this,' then, we have accomplished what we have set out to do."

Marquez said there is an increasing need to focus on students' ability to interview for jobs and professional positions, as technology pushes teenagers away from the person-to-person interaction that traditionally helped hone the skills required for successful interviews.

"Interpersonal skills are in jeopardy," she said, "because this generation of students is growing up in the face of technology [with less face-to-face communication]."

Locust Grove seniors, Jose Reyes, and Brittany Carson, both 17, have limited experience with face-to-face interviews. Carson said she has interviewed only twice before, for her position as secretary for the school's Future Farmers of America Organization. Reyes said he interviewed in August, and earned a job at a local restaurant. "That was my first interview," noted Reyes, who added that he practiced, beforehand, interviewing with his mother.

Carson said she, too, got advice from teachers and parents, on what skills are required for a successful interview. "Eye contact and confidence," said Reyes. "It lets the interviewer know that you are interested, and that you're paying attention. I showed confidence and interest."

Invited interviewer, Stephanie Davis, said some students may be misguided about the job-interviewing process. She said students should be aware that impressions do not begin with the in-person interview, but often when applicants request information about applications.

"Our teens need a lot of work," said Davis. "They should know how to present themselves in an interview, and when they give their applications."

Davis, the assistant manager at Carter's Babies and Kids, at Tanger Outlet Center in Locust Grove, said some applicants portrayed themselves, and their interest in a job with the company, too casually. The store manager, who is also the parent of a senior at the school, said students could use the practice required for good in-person interviews. She said she made sure her daughter had an interest in, and did research about, the jobs for which she applied.

"Do research on the companies and be prepared for questions," said Davis, advising that students be both prepared and relaxed, for their interviews.

Another interviewer, Marty Maddox, remarked on the varying range of communication skills among those being interviewed Tuesday -- "Some have never interviewed before, and others are polished."

"Getting this experience is tremendous," said Maddox, a work-based learning instructor at Ola High School. "For a lot of the kids, it's the first real interview. [But] I hope they're taking a certain level of accomplishment from this."

Maddox -- who is helping plan a mock job interview fair at Ola High in October -- advised students, Tuesday, to display a balanced confidence, and demonstrate positive physical attributes, like maintaining good posture. He said students should take seriously the preparation involved in the interview process, by listening, fine-tuning their resumes, and thinking ahead of time about the answers to potential questions.

"It gives the students an opportunity to put themselves in a real interview situation, and since interviewing is a skill, the more practice you have, the better you will be," said Sharon Bonner, a guest interviewer at Locust Grove, and the CTAE Supervisor for the Henry County School System.

Bonner noted that, while Locust Grove High will end its first mock job interview fair today, other schools in the area are planning to conduct fairs later this fall.

Ola High plans to conduct interviews for some 1,200 high school students during the week of Oct. 25-29. Union Grove High School is planning its annual interview fair for the week of Nov. 15-19. Eagle's Landing and Patrick Henry high schools are expected to conduct annual mock job interview fairs this year as well.