Wilkes University Students Brush Up Job Interview Skills
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Posted by: Melinda Dorning
By Sarah Hite Hando - firstname.lastname@example.org
Nimita Patel, center, goes over some interview techniques with Dafer Alshiban, left, and Kyle Oravic during a mock interview and etiquette lunch last week at Wilkes University.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Wilkes University business students wait for a chance to do a mock interview with local professionals.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
Wilkes University business management student Taylor Higgins, right, in green, interviews with a representative from Lowe’s during a mock interview and etiquette lunch held at the school’s Henry Student Center.
Aimee Dilger | Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Taylor Higgins has been preparing to enter the workforce since she was in fifth grade. That didn’t prevent her from being nervous during a recent mock interview and etiquette luncheon at Wilkes University.
She was one of more than 130 students from the Jay S. Sidhu School of Business and Leadership who met with local business professionals during the event, held at the school’s Henry Student Center. The students were able to interview with two different potential employers and network during the program — the latter of which is a key skill in the business world.
“In a business career, it’s all about networking early on,” said Melissa Wolf, a senior manager at Baker Tilly and interviewer at the event.
Higgins, of Mountain Top, said she began worrying about professionalism as a young student at St. Jude School.
“We did mock interviews that I still have (post-traumatic stress disorder) from,” joked Higgins about her elementary introduction into the business world. “We learned about professionalism and handshakes.”
Bridget Turel, director of the Personal and Professional Development Program at the business school, which sponsored the event, said this more grown up version of Higgins’ experience is important for students who will soon venture off campus in search of their first jobs.
She said most businesses involved in the event are part of the school’s Family Business Alliance, a program that aims to support independent businesses in the area.
“This is a positive experience on the professionals’ side because they enjoy having a purpose in giving back and having a role in students’ success,” said Turel.
Students dressed in suits and skirts crowded the lobby of the Henry Student Center ballroom, clutching resumes and cover letters and chatting anxiously with friends. They were assigned interviews beforehand, allowing them to research the people and companies with whom they would be speaking.
Rodney Ridley Sr., executive director of the university’s Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship, said the mock interview experience is priceless for students preparing to enter the business world — especially since they have the opportunity to meet potential employers.
“There’s only so much a book can tell you,” he said. “This experience is like a shock to the system — a simulation of the real thing.”
He said the most important thing students need to remember is they are entering the workforce as one of many similarly-skilled employees.
“I try to get students to sell themselves and to articulate clearly their distinctive qualities. I ask them, ‘Why you?’” said Ridley. “If they can do that, they have a good shot. Because your resume can only take you so far.”
Ridley said for area professionals, the mock interview day allows hiring managers to take a look at the future pool of applicants and offer feedback to the school about whether students have been well prepared to enter the workforce.
“They get to sample the product coming out of here,” he said. “That way they can influence the process. It’s better for us to know if students aren’t ready for these reasons, and it can be fixed here. It’s better to (teach students) here than when they are on the job.”
Michael Paskas, a graduate assistant in the school’s MBA program who volunteered during the event, said the biannual mock interview day was something he did not get to experience as an undergraduate student, but he believes it’s invaluable in preparing for the real thing.
“I can’t put into words how useful this is,” he said. “It’s like a test run and it helps get the nerves out.”
Paskas, of Rutherford, N.J., said he did mock interviews with faculty and support staff as a student, which allowed him to think about the questions he might be asked during a professional interview.
“I remember my first job interview, I was nervous, but a lot of the questions that came up, I was prepared for,” he said.
Higgins said she has been preparing for her first job after college for quite a while — after all, she already works there.
“I want to be a district manager for Bath & Body Works, or work in the corporate office,” she said. “I’ve been working there for three years, and I’m already a manager.”
She said she initially was a nursing major, but working at the retail store helped to change her mind about her career path.
“I like the pace, reaching goals and meeting people,” she said.
And Higgins’ attitude about the business world might make her a good candidate for a position after school, according to area business professionals.
“We’re looking for someone who’s well-rounded, outgoing, confident and has a strong skill set,” said Wolf. “We’re definitely always looking at the local schools because we want to keep people in the area.”
Dr. Abel Adekola, dean of the business school and keynote speaker at the event, said this mock interview day is just one of many projects the school conducts to keep growing its relationship with the local business community.
“It’s an ongoing collaboration,” he said.