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Students prepare for interrogation

Students prepare for interrogation

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A job interview can be one of the most important moments in a person’s life.

Maliszewski and VanQuathem

Front, to the left, Emily Maliszewski answers questions from Lisa Peterson at the April 15 mock interview held in the Osage Middle School gym. Behind them, to the far right, Marty Cooper interviews Murray Van Quathum.

In half an hour, if current seniors at Osage Community High School do not sell themselves and their skills, they might lose an opportunity.

Mary Klaes is working hard to make sure they do not. After a week of preparation, she coached her students through a mock interview on Thursday.

“We have talked to them about that,” Klaes said of the pressure of interviews, which are often made intentionally difficult by employers. “And we’ve talked to them about how you have to put your best foot forward, because you are being scrutinized against the next person. We let them know they have skills they didn’t realize they had.

“They think a skill is something you’ve learned, but all of your patience and listening and those types of soft skills are very important too. Some students, that’s all they have – they don’t have a lot of experience to put on their resumes. So we let them know they do have very employable qualities.”

The goal is to make it an opportunity rather than an interrogation.

When Klaes is not farming and helping seniors adapt to the real world, she runs Mary Klaes Photography in Osage. She is in her fourth year organizing mock interviews.

One of her motivations is having five children graduate from Osage and finding they came away with limited job interview skills. She saw them face something inevitable without training.

“Some classes had resumes as part of their curriculum,” Klaes said. “But some didn’t. So some seniors, headed off to a job or a college, were leaving without the opportunity to have an interview.”

There is no comparison between learning something in a book and experiencing it firsthand, according to Klaes.

“Hands on is way better,” she said. “You get the jitters out. Several of the kids you wouldn’t expect to be nervous were very nervous, and on their way out said, ‘this is awesome.’ They’re happy to have done it, and they feel better now going into their real interviews. That’s the whole purpose of a mock interview.”

The journey to fix this problem began on Monday, April 12. Students filled out a job application, wrote a resume and practiced. For the real deal at the end of the week, around 16 community members were present, each giving around five interviews. The students signed up for two in their areas of interest.

“It’s been a great opportunity for everyone, and the school’s been very accommodating,” Klaes said. “The community has been fantastic in donating their time.”

They are fighting an uphill battle.

Cell phones, iPads, computers and social media restrict the time a student spends with other people. While there may be an online community, interviews are still conducted in person – though COVID-19 and societal shifts have changed some of those traditional practices.

In some ways, a spoken, in-person conversation is a dying art.

“They don’t have a reason to be face-to-face a lot of times,” Klaes said. “And they may not in an interview either. It may be a Zoom or a phone interview, and we talked about those skills, too.”

Either way, Klaes helped show the students they could turn something foreboding into a chance at something better.

“They don’t have a lot of in-person encounters with other people, especially this year,” Klaes said. “This gave them the opportunity to actually sit down and do that. A lot of them don’t ever talk about themselves and how they’re useful. In their mock interviews, they could talk about their accolades. They could say they’re the perfect person for that position.”

Jason W. Selby is the community editor for the Mitchell Country Press News. He can be reached at 515-971-6217, or by email at jason.selby@globegazette.com.

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