The Art of the Interview: Preparing Students to Present Their Best Selves
High school students can be taught critical thinking, effective communication, and confident leadership … but is that enough to ensure they get into their first-choice school or land the job of their dreams?
The truth is, a student’s amazing abilities won’t be recognized unless they are able to explain and display their competence. In order for students to be truly unstoppable, they need to master the art of the interview.
Whether a student is interviewing for an internship, scholarship, college admission or job, the skills needed are the same: confidence, poise, self-knowledge, and ease.
Strong interview skills aren’t generated by chance-- they take practice. This practice is more important than ever, as interviews have changed and become more complex over the last decade.
One Maclay School alumni, who recently secured an internship within IBM’s SUMMIT program, shared her interview experience, saying:
“During my interview process with IBM in Washington DC, I met with three separate interviewers who all had different backgrounds and sets of questions. During the first interview, I quickly realized that they were more interested in my character and integrity than my knowledge of the wide range of products they offered. In reflection, the key points that I took away from the experience were to be confident in yourself and your abilities, to be informed about the position you’re interested in and the company’s values, and to always have questions to ask your interviewer either about themselves or the company as a whole.”
This type of complex experience proves just how important it is for students to have authentic, intentional interview preparation prior to high school graduation.
That’s why, since 2015, Maclay School juniors have participated in the Alan Gabor Junior Interview Series, a mock-interview program that builds the skills needed to survive even the most high-pressure interview situation.
As a rite of passage, each Maclay junior has multiple mock-interview experiences to help them build confidence; explore challenging questions and answers; and refine everything from eye contact, posture, greetings, tone, and attitude, to the art of the thank-you note.
The program draws on the resources of Florida State University Career Center, and it brings parents, alumni, and community and business leaders to the Maclay campus to lead the mock interviews. This collaboration supports the growth and development of students, helps them make meaningful connections, and gives them helpful insight into what real-life employers seek.
"I think that because of technology kids are having increased issues establishing a context in communication. It's important for kids to participate in the Interview Series to hone their communication skills. For example, in all sports coaches practice repetition so that, when an action happens, the player's skills are better prepared. The interviews give students the chance to practice, make mistakes, and get coaching on how to better handle live action communication," said volunteer interviewer William Green.
Lawton Langford '75, Maclay Distinguished Alum '14, Chairman and CEO of Municipal Code Corporation, and co-teacher of Maclay's Risk and Reward class, shared:
"The best interviews are when you know yourself well, and project with confidence why and how you would help your future employer. The adage 'practice makes perfect' is still true, so practicing answers to likely questions in a mock interview format gives you an advantage over other interviewees, and therefore more likely to land the job!"
Page Secreast ‘16, now a rising junior at Samford University, had a life-changing experience thanks to the skills and relationships she developed during the series, saying:
"I was able to make a strong connection with the Maclay alum who interviewed me. He ended up assisting me in landing an internship at RB Oppenheim Associates after my freshman year in college. By getting that internship early on, I have had many other doors open. I am thankful for the continuous alumni and professional connections Maclay has allowed me to make.”
The interview series is just one of the ways Maclay School is working to fulfill our mission and support and strengthen our students as they move beyond our campus. Preparing students with both knowledge and experience gives them an unshakeable confidence that lasts a lifetime.