Pendleton County mock interviews

Pendleton County mock interviews

Practice makes perfect
Pendleton County seniors gain real-world skills through mock interviews
Kentucky School Advocate
June 2016 
By Matt McCarty
Staff writer
Pendleton County High School seniors were in the hot seat this spring, but it was for their own good.

Each member of the school’s Class of 2016 met one-on-one with a professional in the field they are interested in pursuing, gaining interview skills and advice about their career choice in the school’s annual round of mock interviews.

“Whether they’re preparing for interviews for scholarships or admissions in universities, or whether they’re preparing for interviews for the job market … it helps give them some skills that they may not have had the opportunity to experience,” said Dr. Anthony Strong, superintendent of Pendleton County Schools.
Erin Fitzpatrick talks to Dr. Dale Elifrits during her mock interview in April.
“Not only can they sit through an interview with them, but also at the end of the interview talk about what are some things that (the interviewers) know that they can share with the students about strengths and weaknesses of interviewing, maybe share with them about their job and their field to give them more information,” Strong said.

The district began doing the mock interviews with its seniors in the mid-1990s. The program started through the high school’s advisee program.

In the program’s early years, Karen Delaney, a former teacher, assistant principal and counselor, was involved in the program. She is now retired and this year’s event marked her second year as one of the more than 30 interviewers.

“In 20 years, it really has grown and developed and people have begun to own it and to see it as something that is enriching, truly enriching for our students,” Delaney said. “To have this many business people (participate) … it speaks powerfully to the students about what this community is willing to invest in them in an activity. I think they understand that.”

JoEllen Mitchell started assisting with the mock interview program 15 years ago and now coordinates the efforts. As part of her job as the district’s adult and community education director, Mitchell visits all the local businesses throughout the year with the county’s judge-executive “so we’re finding out where the high demands are, the skills are. It’s something we are able to carry over for this event and other things as well.”

Mitchell said that over the last several years more students have been matched with an interviewer in their career path. Now she is working to find more former Pendleton County graduates to come back and interview students. Three former students participated this year.

The careers students are interested in include medical, education, engineering and many others. (See chart at right.)

“I’m starting to see an increase in some of the fields that are in high demand, so that’s good,” Mitchell said. “It’s almost like you can kind of see how as a school we’re preparing them all across the board for these high-demand fields.”
“Calming my nerves”
Erin Fitzpatrick, who plans to study mining engineering at the University of Kentucky, interviewed with Dr. Dale Elifrits, who has taught at Missouri University of Science and Technology and Northern Kentucky University.

“It was definitely good to go through an interview and not only get the experience of an actual interview but also talking with Dr. Elifrits. He gave me a lot of names and things and advice to go into the future industry.”

Fitzpatrick has done an interview for a college scholarship, but the mock interview was her first job interview experience.

“It was really helpful in getting my name out there with him and going through an interview process and calming my nerves about all of that,” she said.

Elifrits has participated in the mock interviews for nearly a decade. He goes into the interviews with the goal of helping the students “better focus their career objectives and how they’re going to achieve those objectives.”

“There are two significant things they gain from it,” he said. “One is some self-confidence and the ability to talk to a stranger about their careers and themselves. And the other thing I hope they get out of it is I can help them better understand where they think they’re taking their career, where they think they’re taking their lives. … I hope I’m helping them to better understand their future, so to speak.”

Chandler Aulick also interviewed with Elifrits.

“He got me thinking about where I would go company-wise and what I would do after I’m finished with college,” he said.

Pendleton County principal Chad Simms said these insights are invaluable.

“They’re just able to provide kids with some real-life experiences that they’ve gone through as someone who’s in that employment field,” Simms said. “It allows the kids to get an insight on things they may not have otherwise gotten.”

“Really opened my eyes”
Daniel Fleharty wants to be a safety director or teach safety in the construction industry. He interviewed with Ryan Sergent, the Pendleton County school district’s facilities director.

“There were some questions that we worked on today, trying to help him be prepared, to force him to think on his feet, that he wasn’t quite prepared for that helps him, I think, hopefully in the future when he goes for that job that he really, really wants,” Sergent said.

Sergent, who is in his third year as a mock interview participant, said he likes to ask questions that force students to think on their feet.

“To be able to do that, that shows that they’ve got a head on their shoulders and that they can think and address problems that may not be as clear cut,” he said. “Being able to do that in an interview where you’re nervous and you don’t quite understand everything is an invaluable asset to have as an employee.”

Fleharty said he didn’t practice interview techniques ahead of time because he didn’t want his answers to come across as fake.

“I wanted it to get me ready for life and be real,” he said. “He really opened up my eyes as to what I want to do and where I’m going. It’s not exactly what I expected it to be but it’s better than what I thought it was going to be.”
Board View: Interviews are ‘a life skill you have to learn’

Pendleton County school board member Dr. Shawn Nordheim has been an interviewer for the high school’s annual mock interview program for seniors.

“I think this is a life skill that you have to learn,” Nordheim, who teaches nursing at Northern Kentucky University, said. “I think overall it decreases their anxiety … and helps them feel confident when they get to the real world. I think it’s a wonderful thing.”

Nordheim said when she participated in the mock interview exercises, she thought the students were well prepared.

“We attempt to make the students more aware of their body language, eye contact and overall communication skills,” she said. “It is these little things that will increase their self-awareness and ultimately increase their self-confidence when they are interviewing for a job or applying to colleges.”

Her son Jacob is a member of Pendleton County’s Class of 2016 and had a mock interview with a local dentist.

“These interviewers can give our students greater insight into their strengths and shortcomings and what they need to work on in the future because they have actual experiences in the profession,” Nordheim said.
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