Brownstown seniors gain interviewing experience



After interviewing her sixth Brownstown Central High School senior, Lori Smith was impressed.

The human resources coordinator at Nippon Steel Pipe America Inc. in Seymour said she has done mock interviews at other schools.

Brownstown, however, stood out to her because of how prepared and serious the students were.

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"This is the best group of all of the different schools as far as all of the students being engaged and not here because a class forced them to be here," she said. "I feel like these kids are looking for opportunities."

Smith represented one of 31 local employers participating in the mock interviews Nov. 6 at the school. Most of the interviews were done at tables set up around the library, while a handful were done in the guidance office.

Guidance Counselor Derrick Koch said the 152 seniors is the largest class the school has had in a while, and each senior did two interviews with employers of their choice.

He was glad to hear about Smith’s comment about the students.

"I love to hear that because part of the new graduation pathways is showing employability skills, and I know a lot of our students have gone a long way with that, so teachers are taking that on," he said.

"They’ve always done that in the classroom. They’ve always taken that role on to prepare the students. They take it really seriously in the classroom, and these kids will catch onto that and take it seriously, too," he said. "They know how important an interview is. They’ve responded well."

The preparation included learning résumé writing skills and completing applications in English class.

Koch said most of the seniors had done interviews before.

"I like this because it puts them on the spot a little bit, puts a little pressure on them and gives them some ideas on what they are going to get later on in their real interview," he said.

Senior Ethan Shultz was Smith’s sixth interviewee. He said he felt confident going into it because he had done a job interview at a local fast-food restaurant in the past.

"This one was a little bit easier than the first one because I’ve done it already, but I was still kind of nervous," he said. "Once I sat down, I got into it."

Being prepared also helped, Shultz said.

"Mrs. (Stephanie) Hackman explains it pretty well. She’s a good teacher," he said. "And just overall, I’m very down to earth, I just understand things, so when I communicate with someone, I don’t get very nervous. I like talking to people."

After his interview with Smith, Shultz said he felt good going into his other mock interview with an employer.

"I feel like my next one will go a lot better than this one," he said. "I’ll be able to talk a lot more and open up to the person."

Once he graduates in the spring, Shultz said he may enter the workforce, possibly at Nippon Steel or another local industry.

For a factory job, Smith said she looks for applicants’ communication skills, eye contact and social skills. She also talks to them about life in general.

"We’re looking for someone who obviously wants to be there, has enough social skills to get along with people," she said. "A lot of these kids have part-time jobs that if you can work while you go to school, then that gives us the confidence that you can come in and work a full-time job when you graduate."

Nippon Steel offers tuition reimbursement for employees pursuing a degree while working there, and there are opportunities to be promoted from within.

"I did the work full time, go to school part time, and you graduate debt-free," Smith said. "There is a lot of opportunity, and I think a lot of factories are that way. Starting out running the machine doesn’t mean you’re stuck here. It’s all about what you want to do."

It’s information like that shared with students that’s important about the mock interviews, Koch said.

"I’ve been here 20 years, and we’ve been doing the mock interviews since then. It was going on before that, so our Jackson County businesses really step up and support this program," he said. "They take a lot of time and effort and show a lot of interest in the kids. I really appreciate that."

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