Sunday, February 3, 2013

JOBS | Mock Interviews Educate Both Ways

Last week I spent four hours engaged in "mock interviews". They were very instructive for me and I think also for the interviewees.

As part of a training program for hazardous-worker certification provided by the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in Newark, the trainees are given some instruction in preparing their resumes and conducting themselves in a job interview. The program is geared to placing trainees in specific jobs, and the instructors tackle every aspect of the path from training to employment.

My task was to serve as an interviewer. The company I represented is a (real) California-based company that had obtained contracts to engage in superfund remediation in New Jersey, and was hiring staff. Two panels of three interviewers were allowed about 20 minutes to listen to each interviewee, and then evaluated them on their knowledge of the subject matter, communication skills, and likely suitability for the job they were seeking. After it was all over, the interviewers gave some advice to each candidate.

One question that I asked produced some interesting answers: "What were your favorite and least-favorite jobs?"

One interviewee gave as both his favorite and least favorite jobs three posts that were not on his resume! He didn't think they were significant enough to list. I suggested the favorite jobs should definitely be on the resume for two reasons:

  • The most-favorite jobs are helpful to the interviewer in establishing where the job applicant might best fit, and
  • Getting a question about one's most favorite job is a great opportunity to show a "sparkle in your eyes" about a job.
Another interviewee said that all of his jobs were equally important. He had no favorites. My reaction was that this is unnatural. Among children or students or employees, one tries not to show one's favoritism. But surely everyone feels more warmly toward some work experiences than others. Given the opportunity to show the "sparkle in the eye" I urged this interviewee to try to figure out something he could be enthusiastic about.

For my part, it was a great experience seeing some of the interviewees gaining confidence during the course of the interview, and at the end of it all I could see that some of them got a lot out of the exercise. Playing the role of an interviewer as well as an interviewee should be part of the clinical program of any business school.

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