Mock interviews prepare students for work force

Kim Pischke sat waiting in the lounge at the University Career Center. She was dressed conservatively as though for an interview, resume in hand. She appeared nervous.

“I’m not actually interviewing for a real job,” she said. “It’s a practice interview.”

Pischke, like more than 100 students this spring, participated in the Behavioral Mock Interviewing Program at VCU.

“They helped me learn how to respond and how to answer questions correctly (during an interview),” Pischke said.

The program, coordinated by Darlene Ward, assistant director at the career center, gives students practice in the interview process with potential employers

“We found out that most employers are not really asking the typical interviewing questions anymore. Now they want to put students in a situation,” Ward said. “They

want to use the situational questions to find out what kind of past experiences students have had and how those past experiences can predict the future success of the student.

“In my opinion I think those questions are much harder to answer than typical interviewing questions.”

This year one-third more students and one-fifth more employers participated in the interviewing program as compared to last fall. Capital One, Circuit City and Philip Morris were among the companies represented this spring.

Before their interviews with the company representatives, students signed up for one of the four scheduled days and received a list of potential questions to study, such as:

* Describe or explain a situation where you had to persuade a group to follow your lead. How did you do this and what was the outcome?

* Give me an example of when you had to deal with a conflict when working on a team. What was the situation? What was the outcome?

* Give me an example of a time when you had to solve a problem. What was the specific problem and how did you go about solving that problem?

After studying the questions, students then attended an informational session about the program so the recruiters could coach them on the proper answers.

“I think that the interviewing practice is extremely beneficial for the students,” Ward said. “If a student has practiced the questions and thought out well-organized answers, it gives the student a chance to present himself or herself in a strong light to an employer.

“On the other hand, if a student has made some mistakes . . . it’s practice. The most valuable thing that this program does for the student is that it puts them in a close-to-real-life situation that’s safe for them, and the employers give them instant feedback right then and there.”

Ward said the interviews also can be beneficial in preparing students for a career fair.

“A student has to know how to sell themselves whether in an interview or at a fair,” she said. “But of course the career fair is for real — this is practice.”

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