CRYSTAL LAKE – Kayla Schnell thought she knew what it took to get hired.
The 18-year-old has enjoyed early success in the job search process, obtaining a retail position with a popular clothier during her senior year at Prairie Ridge High School.
But after graduation, Schnell plans to further her education and become a physician assistant, a health care profession that will most likely include much stiffer competition when trying to find a job.
The Cooperative Education Program in Community High School District 155 recently held an event that aimed to equip students with proper job interviewing skills.
“We really don’t have formal interviews in the teenage realm,” Schnell said. “I really thought this would be a waste, but it was eye opening, and gave me a chance to talk to people higher up.”
Schnell was one of more than 60 students part of the Cooperative Education Program at the high school who took part in job training Tuesday by sitting in on mock interviews with 28 business representatives from throughout McHenry County.
“We’re trying to take it to the next level,” said Steve Karblom, who coordinates the program alongside Bryan Peckhart. “Our program teaches students how to find a job, get it and succeed.”
The assignment began with students choosing a profession of their choice before creating a personalized cover letter, resume and list of references. They were then given an interview simulation sheet complete with a list of standard interview questions and behavioral interview questions.
Students then sat down one-on-one with a business professional who asked them questions, evaluating them on everything from their first impression to eye contact and accuracy of their answers.
“Most kids don’t have any experience going in to their first job interview … what will be asked of them and how to present a positive image,” said Megan Marshall, member services team leader at Centegra Health who interviewed students Tuesday. “The biggest thing is to not be afraid to take a moment to think about the question and answer it.”
The students she interviewed impressed Kristine Breneisen, retail bank manager for American Community Bank in Crystal Lake.
“It’s important for students to interact with people they don’t know,” she said. “They all seem well prepared and comfortable. It’s so important to keep eye contact and remain confident.”
The students also evaluated themselves after the interviews.
“I think it really went well,” said Brenden Buhke, a junior at Prairie Ridge who plans on studying mechanical engineering. “This was great practice for those kids without job interview experience to learn what an actual interview is like.”
The students completed the assignment by sending “Thank you” letters to those who interviewed them.