Mock Interview Boot Camp Offers Lessons for High School Seniors

CANFIELD, Ohio – A social media post, an interrupting phone call and a lack of knowledge in the company are all among things that can stop a job seeker from landing their dream job.

High school seniors got some lessons in preparations for interviews at the Mock Interview Boot Camp, hosted at the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio through the Business Advisory Council on Friday.

Ruth Bowdish, managing director of On Demand Health Care, explained to students that any potential employer is about to spend money on them, training them for their new position and covering benefits such as health care and a 401(k). The employer wants to know they are getting someone who can handle the position and fits with their company’s philosophy. Getting an applicant to agree to a drug screening or a criminal background check is not uncommon.

Bowdish explained the employer must maintain a safe workplace, and someone impaired by drugs or alcohol could be a danger to themselves, customers or other employees.

Ruth Bowdish, managing director of On Demand Healthcare, talked to students about some of the pitfalls that could stop them from being hired or get them fired from a job, such as drug use and social media posts.

“A medical marijuana card does not override a drug-free workplace policy,” Bowdish said.

And then there’s social media, which people put out there for anyone to see. Bowdish noted that a constitutional right to freedom of speech may allow the students to say what they want online, but it only keeps the government from limiting you, not a private employer who does not approve of provocative photographs, racist statements or videos showing poor decisions made at a party.

Gerri Jenkins, executive director of MyPath Mahoning Valley, explained to students the importance of making eye contact, something the students in one group called “awkward.” The idea could be difficult for students who have spent more time looking at their computer screens and their phones than any prior generation.

Additionally, Jenkins noted students should turn off their phones during an interview. If they have a family emergency where they must be reached, they should offer to reschedule the interview or, at least, explain the situation to the person doing the interview, Jenkins said.

Students got a list of questions they may see in a job interview and practiced interviewing each other.

Working in human resources for about 32 years, Chris Allen of Vallourec has seen a lot of good and bad interviews throughout his career. One of the things he helped students recognize is what the interviewer is actually trying to learn by the questions they are asking.

For instance, Allen said there are a lot of behavior-based questions, and students need to be able to recognize them and learn how to fill out the answers in their responses to provide the interviewer with valuable information. Allen cited as examples questions like, “Give me an example of a time when …” or “Tell me about a timeline.”

Robert Eggleston, the career counseling coordinator with the ESC of Eastern Ohio Business Advisory Council, said Allen is one of the people local students may see in a job interview in the future, and this event gives students a chance to ask him and others what they are looking to learn from them during an interview.

“What a better way for students to learn about how to ace these interviews and stuff than from the people who actually do them,” Eggleston said.

Set up like a professional development day, students from Warren, Austintown and Lowellville who attended the event got a chance to learn about the OhioMeansJobs website and all the resources directly from Carol Ramsay-Loomis and Melissa Alfano, two of the people who operate the local Mahoning and Columbiana County facilities. Students learned about how to find on-the-job training opportunities and scholarships for schools and research a company before going to the interview.

Students also got a chance to learn how to dress for various types of interviews, how to practice their interview skills and how to write a resume.

Eggleston said this was the second Mock Interview Boot Camp the ESC and BAC has held. It was open to seniors at all local schools served by the ESC of Eastern Ohio.

Pictured at top: Career counselors Michael Palm, left, and Robert Eggleston helped the Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio plan the Business Advisory Council’s Mock Interview Boot Camp for area high school seniors Friday.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.