How to help students practice their job interviewing skills

The semester in Writing for Mass Communication is coming full circle.

In the second lab, the students had to create a resume and write a cover letter that would be appropriate for applying for a media-related opportunity — volunteering to help with an event, applying for a summer internship, or asking to job-shadow someone in job the student is interested in.

Now as we come to the end of the semester, the students are participating in a portfolio interview with their lab instructors. Each student was to create a portfolio and then participate in a 10-minute interview with his or her lab instructor.

Andreea Savu interviews Advertising major Cary Palmer as part of the portfolio interview assignment. Cary was interested in interviewing for an internship with a radio station. iPhone photo by Julie Dodd


We’ve talked about preparing a portfolio.
How many examples of their work? How can they include class work if they don’t have published work? How can they include non-8 1/2″ by 11″ examples, such as a T-shirt they’ve designed or a watercolor painting? How should they package their work? Students who went home over spring break brought back copies of their high school newspapers and yearbooks, as they had been writers or editors or photographers.

We’ve talked about the kinds of questions that are typical in job interviews.
In lecture, I had the students share examples of questions they’d been asked in interviews. Many of those are questions that are typically asked.

“Why do you want to work for our company?”
“Tell me about yourself.”
“What do you consider one of your strengths?”
“What is a weakness you have?”
“What is a challenge on the job that you’ve dealt with?”
“When is a time you failed, and what did you learn from that?”
“What questions do you have about the company or job?”

We also discussed that employers sometimes ask an unexpected question. Here are questions the students said they’d been asked:

“If you were an animal, what animal would you be?”
“If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?”
“How many golf balls does it take to fill a bus?

We discussed why interviewers ask that kind of  question and how to respond. [Most often, there is no one right answer. They’re interested in seeing how you respond to an unexpected situation.]

We talked about what to wear.
Be professional. Typically that means a skirt or dress pants and a blouse or shirt. A jacket can be a plus. On days when we have job fairs on campus, I encourage them to see what the students are wearing who are serious about getting an internship or job. Most of those have on dark suits and dress shoes.

I decided to check in one of the computer labs where one of our classes was in session and see how the interviews were going. Andreea Savu, the lab instructor, was moving from one interview to the next for the three hours of the lab. Students were arriving early to make sure they were on time for their appointments. Every student I talked with said the portfolio interview was a very helpful assignment.

“I’ve done an interview before, but it was with AMC (Theaters). This is the first interview I’ve done that was based on having skills to talk about.”

“The interviews I’ve done before didn’t require a portfolio. So now I have one for other interviews.”

“The interview wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I guess that means I was better than I thought I might be. I won’t be as nervous about really doing an interview for an internship.”

One comment

  1. These are all great tips. When the economic crisis hit, we created a role playing tool with interviewing skills as one key application. After all most interviews begin w/ a phone screening process. You can see a sample of how these role-plays work right from your own phone but going to this sample role-play site.


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