Rocking the mock

Practice interviews with employers give students the confidence to succeed when applying for jobs and internships.

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Wearing a sharp blue suit and armed with a fresh resume, Billy Finn was ready to take an important professional step.

A few weeks back, he’d heard that SuccessWorks would be offering practice sessions with professional recruiters, and the computer sciences major eagerly booked an appointment.

“I haven’t done a real professional interview yet,” he said. “I’m ready to get the gears turning.”

Junior Billy Finn exits his mock interview at SuccessWorks with newfound confidence. “It reinforced exactly what I thought I should be doing,” he says. (Photo by Sarah Morton, College ofLetters & Science)

The junior from Western Springs, Illinois, was one of 54 Letters & Sciences students who scheduled mock interviews with representatives from big companies offering jobs in data and tech. SuccessWorks, the personal and professional development center just for L&S students, offers sector-tailored mock interviews throughout the year, so students interested in business, government, science or other fields can get ask questions and polish their interview skills.

As Finn waited for his interview with American Family Insurance — he arrived early, of course — he mentioned his main goal was obtaining feedback on how he performs in an interview and how prepared he is for job opportunities.

He’s planning to work within the computer science industry after he graduates, and big data in particular is piquing his interest. But since he has relatives in the insurance industry, he thought American Family would be a good fit for an interview. (GE Health, UW Credit Union, Liberty Mutual, Michael Best & Friedrich and Epic Systems were other employers on-site.)

The mock interview format consists of 15 to 20 minutes of the recruiter asking questions and the student answering, followed by five to 10 minutes of feedback and discussion.

After his interview, a smiling Finn said he thought the interview went well. He appreciated that Jennifer Thue from American Family outlined what she would be asking, since that gave him more time to think about how to respond. “It was a slowed-down and more broken-down interview,” he said.

Thue gave Finn feedback on his resume, telling him that it was strong and that he might consider swapping the order of two elements. He was pleasantly surprised when she told him that a resume could be longer than a single page.

Finn also got to ask questions such as whether his suit was too bright (it wasn’t), and how his confidence level seemed (good). Ultimately, Finn left SuccessWorks with a better idea of what to expect in future interviews.

“It reinforced exactly what I thought I should be doing,” he says. “It went great and now I can move forward with more confidence.”