No Mocking the Mock Interview


I’m not entirely sure of the demographic breakdown of GovLoop’s blog readership, but I’m willing to bet that a good number of you out there have kids in college. It’s spring break time now, so some of those kids of yours may be off enjoying a trip with friends or family, or maybe they’re just spending time relaxing before they have to buckle down for finals. Or maybe they are using their time a little more strategically (possibly at your insistence) to get their résumé cleaned up in order to start applying for summer or post-graduation jobs.

I’m no expert on job-acquisition but I do want to use this blog post as a platform to encourage you to tell your kids to take advantage of the career planning services offered through their college or university. That’s how I ended up here. And from what I’ve gathered, it seems I had an easier path to federal service than many others out there.

Heading into spring break my senior year, I was going on a trip with friends like so many others, and choosing not to think too far into the future. I was excited for graduation but didn’t know what I was going to do aside from move back home. My plan for getting a job was basically to send my résumé to any and everyone and hope my parents had some contacts who would take pity on me and offer some sort of temporary employment. I had no plans to take advantage of any of the services available to me as a student at my university. Lucky for me, one of my professors made it mandatory that I do so.

During my last semester senior year, I took a class called “Business and Professional Speech Communication.” One of the professor’s requirements was that my fellow students and I had to do activities outside of class that were for our own benefit, working toward obtaining gainful employment after graduation. Essentially, our grade in the class depended on actively trying to find a job. Each activity was awarded different points: five points for a résumé review, five points for going to a seminar about interviewing, and ten points for a mock interview. Things like that.

It came down to the wire for me. I needed the last ten points and a mock interview was my only option.

At the time, I was really averse to any of the point-gaining activities that put me as the center of focus. Attend a lecture where I could take notes but could remain anonymous in the crowd? Sign me up! Take a personality test to try to better understand my strengths and share the results? No problem! But go to an in-person résumé review or mock interview and receive (albeit constructive) criticism from a stranger? No, thank you. But I was desperate so I signed up.

Now, there is a little bit of luck (or “right place at the right time” stuff) to my story…I actually registered for an interview with a private sector company, but the interviewer was running late and another interviewer from a government agency graciously offered to interview me instead.

Long story short, the interview was not as awful an experience as I had been anticipating. I did well; the interviewer liked me and knew of a job she thought might be a good fit for me. I applied and a few weeks later I was interviewing with my now-boss and here I am, nearly five years into government service and better for it! I never would have gotten here if it hadn’t been for my school’s career services offerings.

College and university career planning services are robust and best of all…free. Or at least, part of the tuition already being paid. There is a staff full of staff of people who are objective experts with an interest and desire in helping students figure out their next steps. They have tons of tools at their disposal, are informed about the reputation of companies looking to hire students and new graduates, and they know about open employment opportunities. Students can go there and ask for help or use the various resources to help themselves.

Many colleges and universities even offer some of their services for alumni. So even if your child has been out of school for a few years and is looking for a change, they can see what opportunities exist to get help from their school’s career planning services.

The internet is a great tool to find opportunities to apply for, but before doing so, they should have their résumé checked over by as many people are willing to look at it. Fresh eyes always help with that sort of thing. Doing a mock interview can result in great tips for improving how your child responds to questions, presents him or herself, and maybe if your child is as lucky as I was, it will turn into a real interview.

As parents, while you are deeply invested in your children finding their career path, you’re a little removed from their college life. As you’re offering input to them on how to go about their job search, or sending them job postings from a search you do yourself, you may forget (or not even have known) about the additional resources they have at their disposal. Next time you talk to your kids about their job hunt, make sure you remind them to use all of the tools available to them.

Mackenzie Wiley is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Toni Messina

I’d like to second this motion. I’ve seen mock interviews transform nice kids into poised, well-informed and engaging young people. This was in the pageant world. I know…I used to wonder about all the fuss but in the Miss America and other systems, the interview is a big part of your overall score. We involved community members, teachers, news media reps and other professionals to ask questions and advise on everything from quality of answers to professional presentation. Wish I would have had that advice growing up.

Tamara Schaps

Thank you for raising awareness about excellent career resources available to college students on campuses everywhere! As a career services professional who works with graduate students in a Public Administration program, I can personally testify to the value of mock interviews and I wish more professors would encourage (or require!) that students come visit our office. Students have pre-paid for career services with their tuition, so they absolutely should use the services early and often throughout their time in school. Thanks again for your thoughts on this important topic!