You’re Fired!
Week Sixteen: Speed Dating

To reduce the candidates from three to two, The Donald asked four CEO’s to interview Craig, Kendra and Tana. With no preparation, the candidates were expected to wow the executives.

Education is preparation for life. That means it’s not just learning a series of facts or an assortment of skills. Parrots and monkeys can do that. Our students deserve an education where they learn to think creatively, solve problems, gather information and skills on their own, act in an ethical way and understand their attributes well enough to present them to others.

Do you remember your first job interview? More to the point, were you prepared for your first interview? Often traditional education doesn’t consider these skills to be as important as facts and figures. There are some shining exceptions including the High Tech Edge Program. Students have to apply to the program. This includes submitting a resume and portfolio as well as participating in an interview. This is the time of year when I have the pleasure of interviewing high school students for this incredible project-based learning experience. Often this is their first formal job interview. Few know what to expect and most are nervous.

Let’s take a look at the experiences of the Apprentices to see what we can learn.

Interviews Are Like First Dates

In first dates and interviews, most people try so hard to impress the other person they don’t recognize them as being one of America’s Most Wanted. An interview should be a two-sided conversation. In addition to showcasing your personality and skills, you should be learning everything you can about the job opportunity and the work environment.

I talked with Kim Kuchenbrod, an educational consultant who has helped local schools prepare students for the interview process. She stresses researching the company to learn how you can be an asset. In his interview with Howard Lorber, Chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate, Craig suggested that he would be happy to help The Donald break into the low income housing market. The Trump Organization is all about luxury. This showed a tremendous disregard for the organization’s goals.

Kuchenbrod also counsels students to be honest. Darlene Daggett, President of QVC felt as if Kendra wasn’t being real. Her answers sounded scripted. Tana, on the other hand, presented herself as a real person.

Never Wear a Backward Ball Cap to an Interview Unless Applying for the Job of Umpire
– Dan Zevin

Anna Johnson, author of “Three Black Skirts: All You Need to Survive” suggests that you dress three levels above your current position. “Dressing a few tiers about your station is not pretentious, it’s sensible.” It helps interviewers and bosses visualize you in the position and at the salary you want. For high school students this means wearing a suit or coordinating outfit. A student who recently interviewed for the High Tech Edge Program was concerned she had overdressed because she saw other interviewees in shorts and jeans. Fret not, young lady, you were dressed appropriately; they were not.

Kuchenbrod agrees. “You are a walking billboard for yourself. Make sure your appearance is professional.” Handshakes are also important. They should be firm and you should make eye contact. “You only have 10 seconds to make an impression.”

“When Is It Appropriate to Bend the Rules?” And Other Tough Questions

The four executives asked a series of difficult questions. How do students learn to respond to interview questions? Three local high schools have excellent programs that teach students how to write resumes, cover letters and follow up letters as well as participate in interviews. Diane Ecker at Central High School’s Academy includes these skills in her classes. She also incorporates training in workplace ethics and helps students develop electronic portfolios.

Marc Changnon provides these services to students at both Central and Centennial High Schools. In addition, he arranges job shadowing opportunities and internships for students.

Susan Fassler at Unity High School teaches these skills to sophomores and hosts a mock job fair.
Students dress appropriately and spend the entire day interviewing with local human resource professionals. After the interviews the business volunteers provide constructive criticism to each student.

I’ll Take Substance for 500, Alex

The four New York executives had the opportunity to interview the final three Apprentice candidates. Some liked Kendra because she provided concrete, intelligent answers. Others found her too assertive. Some were impressed with Tana’s entrepreneurial skills and her ethics. Others thought that a nice woman from Iowa couldn’t compete in the big city. Both these women did a good job of participating in the interview conversation. By presenting themselves honestly, they were bound to appeal to some organizations and not to others.

Craig, on the other hand, couldn’t communicate his personality or skills. David Brandon, Chairman and CEO of Domino’s said Craig was hard to pin down. Greg Brenneman, Chairman and CEO of Burger King said he found himself wanting to hire Craig but “couldn’t because there was no substance.” We should be grateful to those local schools that offer students interview preparation and workplace skills. Craig did not have that opportunity and Craig was fired.

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