Learning to be surefire hires

East Meadow School District high-schoolers practice interviewing skills


Anyone who has ever interviewed for a job knows just how stressful the process can be, and that’s why for the past 15 years, the East Meadow Chamber of Commerce has been hosting the Millie Jones mock interviews for juniors at East Meadow and Clarke High School.

The 55 student participants are a part of the Academy of Finance program, and the interviews aim to improve their skills and prepare them for college or future employment. Alan Hodish, a past president of the chamber, is the mastermind behind the event. Hodish said he’d been told in the past that students who had come to the chamber for jobs or internships were not very prepared for interviews.

“It’s a chance for us as a chamber, our business people, and some other members from the community, to get a chance to give back to our students,” Hodish said. “It gives them an opportunity to be part of the interview process.”

The Academy of Finance is a program offered to the two high schools by the National Academy Foundation, a company that supports career academies within traditional high schools. It allows students to take a variety of business classes. The mock interviews are just one requirement that the students need to complete to get NAF-certified.

Each student in the program gets matched up with a chamber member, East Meadow Kiwanis member, or other community leaders who act as their potential employer. The students come dressed to impress and are taught to put their best foot forward for the interview. Beforehand, each interviewer was given the student’s resume, a list of potential questions to ask and a rubric to grade them.

“The students are always excited but very nervous,” said Melissa Woisin, the advisor of the Business Honor Society who also teaches several business classes at East Meadow and Clarke. “It’s a great opportunity because it’s something that they’re going to do for the rest of their lives. It’s not something that it’s in a textbook, so for them this is a skill they can really see.”

Before the interviews took place, Hodish said that he and chamber members Debbie Kirsh, Mitchell Skoller, Anthony Bott, and Roxanne Rose visited the classes and talked to the students about resume building, dressing professionally, how to present themselves at an interview, and how to conduct research. Each student was told to research his or her potential future employer before the interviews to know what type of job they would be interviewing for, and to show that they knew about the company.

“Research is very important, and it was pretty easy for the students because most of the people in the chamber are business people,” Hodish said. “(Researching) really shows a desire to get that particular job when you can impress the owner.”

Many of the community members who participated as potential future employers have done so for years. Steve LaSala, the commissioner of the East Meadow Baseball and Softball Association, has been participating for nearly a decade.

“I thought it was a great thing that the chamber was doing to help out the children of our community,” LaSala said. “It’s great that we’re giving them some real life experience to what they could expect as they grow older. They’re always going to have to sell themselves, whether it’s to a college or to a job, and this helps them get a little experience.”

Toni McIntosh, the chairperson of the business and technology department for the district, said that the program is a great learning opportunity for the students.

“I just think the students are the most nervous in the beginning, none of them want to do it,” McIntosh said. “You don’t want the first interview that you go on to be the job that you really want. Now, they’ve done that, they’ve gone on an interview, and they know that it’s not going to be much different in the future.”

After each interview, the interviewer grades the interviewee on how they presented themselves, how they spoke and dressed, and how well their resume was prepared. The students see the responses later in class.

“My favorite part is them realizing that they can do it,” Woisin said. “And that they have those skills, and just got a new skill set.”