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South Jordan Journal

How to successfully land a job – ask an Elk Ridge ninth-grader

Jun 23, 2021 02:41PM ● By Julie Slama

Elk Ridge ninth-graders practice their interviewing skills with volunteers to prepare for careers and college. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama|[email protected]

Elk Ridge Middle School ninthgrader Jackson Shortridge acknowledges he was a little nervous even though he reviewed some possible interview questions and prepared his resume for an interview.

As he sat in his shirt and tie across from the interviewer, he gave an elevator pitch about who he was and why he would be the best choice for the job.

“I highlighted my skills, experience, and qualities I have,” explained the honor roll student, who said he talked about his school and church leadership roles. “It was all pretty much straightforward.”

Jackson was one of about 400 ninth-grade students who participated in mock job interviews this spring at his school as part of a way to help students “present themselves in a professional manner and gain that experience with interviewing and preparing resumes,” said Principal Curtis Jenson. 

“It has been good to have students learn what they need and have this experience before they interview for their first jobs or internships,” he said about the mock interviews that replaced the traditional Reality Town last year.

Eighth graders participated in job shadows that they arranged on the same day as part of their college and career readiness.

Jackson said he was given the advice from the interviewer to list more skills and experiences on his resume, a tip that many interviewers shared with students. Some interviewers suggested students even look for ways they can get more involved, have more leadership experience and provide service to the community since they all are factors interviewers look at as ways they stand out from others interviewing for the same position.

Volunteer Julie Good remembered her first experience going in for a job interview.

“I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been. I wanted to come help students, so they have that experience and practice,” she said. “I’ve been impressed that with whatever experience they do have, they have included it in their resume and are taking what they’ve learned to how it applies to a job.”

Counselor Paul Bennett said that students were coached in resume writing and interviewing beforehand.

“They were given some basic interview questions, told to prepare a 60-second elevator speech to introduce themselves and to dress nicely,” he said.

Counseling Assistants Krista Anderson and Stephanie Hess worked with students during their English/Language Arts classes on the interview skills as well as showing them a video of Jenson and former assistant principal Spencer Campbell demonstrating a good and poor interview, respectfully.

“We worked with students before spring break so then they could practice skills and create their resumes during spring break,” Hess said. “Some students are incredibly nervous, so this is a good experience to have a job interview in a safe place. Some last year did so well that interviewers have offered them jobs.”

Ninth grader Kelsey Brown was excited and felt prepared.

“He asked me questions about my skills, a challenge I faced and how I overcame it, how to resolve an issue with an employee, and about one of my greatest accomplishments,” she said.  “I asked him about his work, and learned he has three jobs; we connected how we tend to overwork ourselves, so he gave me tips to avoid stressing myself in the future. It was a great experience as I’m looking to start in a job immediately.”

Her interviewer, Derek Yoder, whose ninth-grade son prepared his own resume, has hired personnel before.

“It can be an intimidating process, but I asked some of the same questions I would in the real world,” he said. “It’s good that these students are getting a taste of what this is like and can take advice to heart. It’s important they learn how to carry themselves and how to be prepared.”

After their interviews, students shared what the interviewer said they did well as well as something well as well as one thing they could improve upon. They also were rated on a 1-5 ranking on several things such as if they had good eye contact and good posture or if students spoke clearly and provided answers with details.  

Some interviewers said they were impressed with students’ responses of how they stand out from their peers and why they should be hired as well as their lasting impressions when they respond to the question, “Is there anything else you would like to tell me about yourself?”

Anderson said that was something they reminded students.

“We tell them, these other students are your competition, so think of it as that, and share with them what makes you the best choice,” she said. “It’s not an easy task to talk about themselves, but we’re hoping that they understand these skills are ones they will be using the rest of their lives.”