- Associated Press - Monday, May 12, 2014

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - In order to get a first job, you have to ace that first job interview.

In an effort to help young teens prepare for a world outside of school, teachers at Holgate Middle School in Aberdeen recently worked with local business leaders to set up mock interviews in the school’s gymnasium.

Many of the 150 or so students dressed to impress: Some young gentlemen were wearing ties and young ladies were wearing dresses.

This is the third year Holgate has presented this opportunity to its eighth-graders.

“They’re very nervous when we first mention it; they’re not sure what to expect,” said Brandi Swalve, eighth-grade language arts teacher. “We take two or three days during our homeroom class where we practice, we give them some tips about interviewing and we have them practice with each other.”

Representatives from several area businesses, including the YMCA, Avera and Kessler’s, with a large faction from Northern State University, volunteered their time and sat in metal folding chairs along folding tables while eighth-graders stood in line, waiting to be interviewed.

Dan Grewe, youth sports director for the Aberdeen YMCA, encouraged some of the teens who could be his employees in a few years.

“I feel it’s important that young kids get the experience of being able to answer questions that pertain to their future,” Grewe said.

Even though the interviews are strictly for practice, they have led to other opportunities for the students, Swalve said.

“We did have people take down names,” Swalve said. “One lady took down a girl’s name because she thinks she’d be a really good baby-sitter for her. Not this year, but, in years’ past, we’ve had girls get hired at a couple of restaurants in town.”

While the purpose of the mock-interviews isn’t employment, the impression the students make can last, Swalve said.

Grewe wasn’t recruiting during the recent workshop, but he did see some standouts.

“You can tell there’s a couple of these kids that would be a good fit to work with our youth down there,” Grewe said, adding that a good impression at the mock interviews can last until the middle-schoolers are old enough to work at the Y.

In addition to interviewing, business leaders provided a critique, letting the students know where they excelled and what they could improve.

“For instance, I had one of the interviewers notice a girl playing with her hair,” Swalve said. “She said, ‘If something you do is play with your hair when you’re nervous, make sure you wear your hair back when you go for an interview.’ Those are the kinds of things they don’t ever hear or learn anywhere unless they do something like this.”

Many students were nervous, so Grewe recommended taking a deep breath before sitting down to calm them. He also said it’s important for them to sit up straight and practice answers to common interview questions so their answers are more than one word.

There are more and more businesses volunteering to participate in the mock interviews, Swalve said.

“We so appreciate the support from the community business people that come into the school,” Swalve said. “This is a great example of how networking works. The first year we did it we had about 20 people, last year we had about 29, and, this year, we had 33 people.”

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Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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