Mock interviews help students prepare for the future

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MFL MarMac senior Ty Hefner was one of 93 students who participated in mock interviews last week. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

The 93 MFL MarMac juniors and seniors in Tamara Butikofer’s pre-employment strategies class got a taste of the real world Dec. 1, as they participated in mock interviews for their potential careers.

For the interviews, students were split into four groups. Each group went into the gym for a half-hour, during which time the students were matched up with and interviewed by a local business person or Northeast Iowa Community College representative.

This was a new venture for MFL MarMac, Butikofer said.

“We do some mock interviews in class, but never this big,” she explained. 

In class, Butikofer said students were prepped on some of the types of questions that might be asked during the interview, but didn’t have a set list. 

“They have to be prepared to answer on the spot,” she said.

The interviewer filled out a rubric for their student following the interview, noting positive aspects as well as things the student could work to improve. Students also filled out a rubric.

As juniors and seniors edge closer to college and their future careers, Butikofer said she hopes this will help them prepare.

“Coming in here is different than interviewing for a high school job,” she said, adding that, odds were, the student didn’t know the person who interviewed them. “No matter what they do, they need these soft skills. I hope the kids appreciate it and use it.”

Following their mock interviews, all the students attended a panel in the high school auditorium. There, several representatives from area businesses answered their questions about the interview process. Participants included Candace Drahn from M’s Machine and Manufacturing, Dixie Doeppke from Norplex-Micarta, Mark Witter from Lady Luck Casino, Bill Roe from Birdnow Chevrolet, Mike Murray from Mobile Track Solutions and Gina
Roys from Clayton County Recycling.

What were some of their biggest interview tips? 

Resumes are important. 

“What you put on your resume is important,” Drahn shared. “You’re selling yourself.”

Make sure you’re specific, Witter added: “Don’t just list your skills. Give examples. Tell us why you’re a good leader.”

Doeppke agreed, explaining, “Be prepared to back up the skill on your resume. Don’t just say you use technology. Be prepared to show how and when you use it.”

The references listed on a resume are also important, Doeppke said. Potential employers will call them, so make sure you’ve asked him/her  first, she noted.

Murray admitted the further away people get from high school and college, the less employers care about their grades. That doesn’t mean they aren’t important, though, he cautioned. 

However, employers also look at other aspects of the person.

“Be well-rounded,” said Roys, who encouraged students to get involved with sports, clubs and volunteer activities.

“It shows you know how to work with people,” Witter said. 

“Soft skills are really paramount,” Murray said, explaining that reliability, trustworthiness and responsibility are key aspects employers consider.

For Roe, he said he appreciates a strong handshake. He also advised interviewees not to bring their cell phones to an interview.

“When that goes off, it’s not good,” he said.

Asking questions about the company and the job is also a plus, he added.

“Research the company,” agreed Drahn. “Know what questions to ask.”

Most of all, though, Doeppke said, don’t worry about being nervous.

“Even we’re nervous,” she said of the interviewers. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 17 or 45, you’re still just as nervous. Take a deep breath and think through your answers.”

And don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get the job, Murray shared. 

“One interview might lead to another job,” he said. “It might work out somewhere else.”

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