Students turn tables with ‘job’ interviews

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 17, 2000

Christy Corley smiled confidently as she pushed open the door. &uot;Hi,&160;I’m Christy,&uot; she said as she held out her hand. &uot;Thanks for taking time to interview me.&uot;

Sitting across the table, hands in her lap, she quickly became an engaging interview, talking easily about everything from her porcelain doll collection to the lessons she has learned on the softball diamond.

&uot;It teaches you how to follow directions,&uot; she said. &uot;I may not agree with everything the coach says, but I know that I&160;have to do it when I’m out there.&uot;

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More important, she added, the time spent playing softball has taught her a valuable skill — learning how to get along with others.

&uot;That’s why I think I could do this job,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m good at getting along with lots of different people.&uot;

&uot;This job&uot; is a fictional job as a secretary with a Louisiana bank.

And Christy — an eighth-grader at Vidalia Junior High — was applying this day, armed with her resume, a mock job application and an eager attitude.

&uot;I’d probably say I’m a good worker,&uot; she replied quickly when asked to describe herself, taking the interviewer through her work experience that included billing at a local small business, working with a day care center and working at a fast food restaurant.

Why the variety? &uot;I needed money to get started at school,&uot; she said smiling.

With steady eye contact, a smile and candid honesty — &uot;I’m a little bit nervous,&uot; she said — Christy sailed through the first 10 minutes of the exercise. Then, came the test.

&uot;Do you have any questions for me?&uot; I asked as the interviewer.

&uot;Well, actually, I do,&uot; she said. &uot;And I wrote them down, in case I got nervous and forgot.&uot;

She navigated the obvious omissions in our exercise — salary, benefits (&uot;Now, what type of retirement plan is that? A 401K or something else?&uot;) and earnings opportunities: &uot;Do you provide bonuses or chances to earn more money for extra work or particularly good work?&uot;

Five minutes later, I was sufficiently impressed.

Like the others interviewed that day — future architect Chris&160;Rouse, future investigative reporter Becky Linton and future computer expert Davilyn Clifton — Christy was eager about her career opportunities.

The youngsters are students in Sarah Cotton’s reading class, and the mock interview exercise was for them a culmination of a study of English, grammar and job preparedness.

Mrs. Cotton recruited nearly half a dozen business representatives to participate in the exercise last week, from bankers to editors, urging them &uot;to be tough, just like you would in a real interview.&uot;

The students had already learned about resumes and applications, the importance of work experience, the importance of good grammar and speech, even how to shake hands and maintain eye contact.

The goal of the interviews, she said, &uot;was to let the students learn from this experience so the next time, when they’re really on a job interview, they’ll be better prepared.&uot;

It’s more than just reading and writing, yet it’s the type of teaching that’s important to youngsters today.

Instilling in students an eagerness to learn, an ability to solve problems and think creatively and a general base of knowledge and skills is the basis formalized education.

But teaching the students about real life — from how to introduce yourself on a job interview to how to balance a checkbook — is the hallmark of a practical education.

It’s up to the students to synthesize both the formal education and the practical education, and the ones who are lucky enough to have both — such as the students at Vidalia Junior High — should be well on their way to a bright and successful future.

Judging by Christy Corley and her peers, the approach is working.

Stacy Graning is editor of The Democrat. She can be reached at 445-3539 or via e-mail at