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The City Journals

Cottonwood High students land mock job interviews with local business leaders

Mar 07, 2018 09:31AM ● By Julie Slama

Through United Way of Salt Lake, Cottonwood students have mock job interviews with local Salt Lake Valley business leaders. (United Way of Salt Lake)

Where would you like to be in five years? Ten? What are some of your proudest accomplishments? What are some good leadership qualities you have?

These were possibly some of the questions nine Cottonwood High students had asked of them by Salt Lake Valley business leaders recently during mock job interviews coordinated by United Way of Salt Lake.

“Many of the students we offered the interviews to are first-generation college-bound students, so this gave them a real opportunity to learn what professional interviews can be like in a safe environment,” said Meredith Muller, Cottonwood High’s community school director with United Way.

The students were paired up with professionals, including some chief executive officers and chief financial officers, representing companies such as Zion’s Bank, Wells Fargo, CHG Healthcare and Rocky Mountain Power. Before the interview, students created resumes and were given an interview preparation guide.

“We wanted this to focus more on the content of the resume and how they are able to speak about themselves, not about dressing up. Many of the students could have part-time jobs, but this was to give them experience in interviewing for professional business positions,” Muller said.

The students, many of whom are part of the Latinos in Action and AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) college and career readiness classes, also had the opportunity to learn about the businesses.

“It’s a good chance for these businesses to get to know the students, but also for the students to meet these professionals and learn what opportunities are in the community,” she said. “Students get a chance to get feedback on answering real interview questions from experienced professionals who can then turn and offer real-time feedback for the students. After the interviews, we do a short networking session so the students can work on that skill as well.”

Muller said that the debriefing session asked students what they liked and learned from the experience to what questions they had of the company.

Cottonwood Latinos in Action teacher Ben Zaharias said the interviews provided some of his students the chance to understand the process better.

“After the mock interviews, they talked them through the questions and found out how they can answer them,” he said. “They also looked at the resumes and how to make those better. It gave the students a chance to see what kinds of office jobs are out in their community and introduced them to this style of interviewing.”

Muller said that was part of the key to the mock interviews.

“It gives the students a chance to learn how interviews are conducted and how to prepare for them,” she said.

Another part is to help prepare them for what is in their future as seniors in high school.

“The interviews also are helpful to students who are interested in applying for the Deborah Bayle Scholarship,” she said.

The scholarship, which has a mid-March deadline, usually conducts interviews in April. The scholarships are offered to six Kearns, Hillcrest and Cottonwood High students who plan to attend college at the University of Utah, Utah Valley University, Weber State University or Salt Lake Community College. Information about the scholarships can be found at each school’s counseling center, Muller said.

United Way also holds mock interviews at Kearns High both in the fall and in April.