Kelly Schmidt, Content Manager for United Way of Salt Lake

When Jake Housel addressed the volunteers for Kearns High School’s mock interviews, he tried to set the stage for how impactful their time would be for the participating students.

“For a lot of the kids at our school, just getting to class or graduating high school is huge,” Housel, United Way of Salt Lake’s Kearns High community school director, explained. “… but for the students participating today, they believe the sky’s the limit and this is one step forward toward that future.”

Mock interviews give high school students a chance to be critiqued and hone their interview skills to help prepare them for their future. Volunteers use their professional experience and expertise to help the students by giving them tips and tricks that could give them a leg up for interviews they have in the future.

With resumes in hand, students from Kearns’ Latinos in Action (LIA) club paired up with professionals for their mock interviews. Volunteers from across the Salt Lake Valley, with various professional backgrounds, interviewed the students for 30 minutes before giving them their feedback and advice.

The participating students varied from freshman to seniors. Andrew Busath, Kearns’ Spanish and LIA teacher, said taking in mock interviews is perfectly in line with LIA’s goals of college and career readiness for students and has given past students more confidence about how interviews work.

The students’ aspirations and professional interests vary greatly, Busath said, ranging from dental hygienists and animators to pilots and teachers.

“It means a lot to me to help these kids. They really don’t get these opportunities often so I’m so grateful for the volunteers,” Busath said. “This is something they remember and take with them for the rest of their life. It’s better than anything we could just do in class.”

Volunteers were given a list of questions and a rubric for feedback for the interviews but were also able to weave in their own questions and interview techniques if they felt they’d help the students. Mock interview volunteer veteran Chris Christiansen said he likes to focus on having the students talk about themselves and develop how they can tell their stories in the interview environment.

Mock Interviews with Chris ChristiansenFor Christiansen — who is Bank of America’s senior vice president of the Nevada Utah Region — being able to articulate who you are and what you can offer an employer is the key to a great interview.

Many of the students he has worked within the three years he has participated in mock interviews haven’t been confident at the start, but open up more when he’s given feedback and they realized they can still be themselves during the interview process.

“I think back to when I was 18 and how much I didn’t know,” he said. “The opportunity to really go through this and have this experience, but in a no-risk environment, is huge for them. And every kid in this school and every kid in high school should take advantage of something like this.”

Christiansen’s first mock interview experience still sticks with him three years later, he said. The student he worked with had huge career and life ambitions. She soaked up all the advice he gave. It wasn’t until a couple weeks after the interview that he realized how much of an impact he made on her.

“She wrote me a handwritten letter afterward that I have in my office still,” he said. “That’s helped me come back each year.”

Learn how you can get involved in our Community Schools and inspire kids, from Kindergarten to High School. Visit uw.org/volunteer for more information.