Interviewing subjects isn’t just that thing HR Managers do. In fact, interviewing can be a great form of experiential learning. This is true whether students are the interviewer or the interviewee. In fact, when we encourage students to ask questions of the people they meet, we’re encouraging the development of a wide range of skills, from the social and the emotional to a basic sense of curiosity and a thirst for knowledge. Honing interview schools at school will help students thrive not only in the classroom itself, but also in the job market as they interview for jobs, interview others for those positions, and continually ask questions as they settle into their roles. Here are a few ways to integrate the teaching of these essential, foundational skills into the classroom.
I have taught courses that emphasize skills that students will need for both conducting an interview and participating in a job interview. Observationally speaking, I have found that students who can answer questions well are also good at asking questions.
When we think of answering questions, we think of the job interview. Job interview skills are of paramount importance to students because they will all likely go through at least one in their lifetimes. An increase in the number of college graduates has led to a saturated job market, meaning students’ interviewing skills have to be top-notch for them to compete for their dream career. But good interviewing skills don’t develop overnight. Waiting until their senior year of high school or even college to teach interviewing skills may be too late.
Being able to ask proper questions is equally important. Some students may eventually interview potential hires. When conducting a job interview, asking the right questions can help save the company time and money. How will students know the right questions to ask if they haven’t been properly taught what a good question is and how to obtain the information they seek?
If the goal of education is to prepare students to become productive members of society, teaching interview skills is a critical part of that preparation. An interview exercises students’ critical thinking and communication skills, and they are required to think creatively on their feet. These are also among the traits needed to be successful in the workforce. A survey, conducted by “The Chronicle for Higher Education” and American Public Media’s “Marketplace,” found that 50 percent of employers had difficulty finding new college graduates suitable enough to work in their companies. They most desired adaptability, communication, and complex problem-solving skills, but found recent graduates woefully lacking these traits.
When it came to interviewing skills, more than 60 percent of employers said graduates were unprepared. Marketplace took its study further by staging a “mock” interview between a recent graduate and an employer. The problem with the student’s interview responses? They were not “thought out.” Students are not going to learn to create “thought-out” answers on their own; that’s why we need to help.
Teaching interview skills encourages students to talk. This is especially important for ESL students. We typically ask students to engage in writing exercises, but an ability to express oneself verbally is key to a successful interview. Interview preparation activities that emphasize public speaking can help shy students become comfortable speaking in front of others and can help ESL students practice their spoken English.
Good communication and critical thinking skills, as well as an ability to read people, are all in a good interviewer’s toolbox. Lessons that exercise these skills will teach students how to create strong interview questions and to answer questions critically and carefully; they will also teach students important soft skills that will benefit them beyond the classroom. Here are a few ideas you can use to teach interviewing in your classroom.
Show an Example. What does a good interview look like? We show students examples of good work in other assignments, and we should demonstrate an example of a good interview. Examples could include a clip from a television news show or a staged interview featuring other teachers or students’ parents. After viewing the interview, talk with students or have them write about what made the interview successful and how they can apply these traits to their own interview skills.
Create Mock Interviews. Allow students to become both the interviewer and the interviewee in a role-play exercise that requires them to carefully prepare and think on their feet. Select a job posting that you find on any career website. Create a list of skills that a candidate needs for that position, and provide this list and the job description to a student who will be the interviewer. That student will need to develop his or her own questions to obtain the necessary information. For the interviewees, you will need to provide a list of skills they should have for the position; it will be up to them to consider how to thoroughly describe these skills when asked about them.
Encourage Research and Development. Show students how to locate information on a company or a profession by visiting the company’s website, online job boards, or the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook. From that information, have them develop questions they think employers will ask them, then provide them with ideas of the most common interview questions. Students should then write out their answer to each of these questions, and these responses can either be turned in as an assignment, discussed in class, or become part of a mock interview exercise. I have used this assignment with much success as it encourages students to think carefully about their responses.
Implement the Informational Interview. If you want to find an answer, the best thing to do is ask a question. That’s the premise behind the informational interview: To obtain information about a particular field or career. Set up informational interviews for them to learn more about their desired profession. You can assign students to do this on their own, or you can schedule a panel of professionals to visit the class for student interviews. If students are old enough, they may find a potential mentor or internship opportunity through such interviews. Introducing informational interviews to students also encourages them to look beyond a Google search when it comes to finding out what they want to know.
Regardless of what they do with their lives once they finish school, every student will likely be part of a job interview. As educators, we do our best to prepare them for other aspects of their future lives, and interviewing should be one of them. Teaching interviewing skills improves students’ communication and critical thinking abilities, setting them up for future success.