Molding young minds (or was it the other way around?)

One of my outside activities (meaning aside from work and family, not meaning outdoors) the past several years has been conducting mock job interviews with college students each semester since Fall 2015.

The students I interview are typically well-spoken, bright young men and women who pretty much put my young adulthood to shame. They’re enrolled in a leadership program at Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana, and their majors range from journalism to public relations and related fields of endeavor. Other interviewers chat with students majoring in fields in line with the interviewer’s field of expertise.

We finished another round of interviews in late May, and once again, I got to know five great young people. They pretend they’re applying for a job with my company, and I ask them some fairly standard questions:

  • What are your greatest strengths?
  • What do you still need to work on?
  • How do you work under pressure?
  • Why would I want to hire you?
  • What’s your favorite color?

Well, okay, maybe not the last one.

Since they’re in a leadership program, I also ask them to tell me about the leadership roles they’ve had, what they’ve learned from their experiences as a leader, and how they handle problems with fellow employees, teammates, etc.

At the end, I ask if they’ve got any questions for me. This can be one of the most enlightening segments of the interview. They’re supposed to have researched my company, so they should have a few questions relating to that, or at least ask general questions about publishing, journalism, or becoming the best job candidate they can be.

Questions I’ve been asked have ranged from “So, how’s it going?” — that fellow clearly had his mind on anything but preparing for this interview — to “What qualities do you look for in an employee?” The latter types of questions far outnumber the former.

This year, I added a variation on a question that I’ve heard used in interviews. I changed “What’s the latest book you’ve read?” to “Have you read any good books?” I’m aiming to find out what moves and motivates them, and why, instead of just finding out what was their most recent read, whether they actually got anything out of it or not.

Here are the books this semester’s students provided (one person didn’t have one, and I didn’t ask another student as we were running short of time):

I’m going to check some of them out.

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