Workshop helps students look to college, beyond

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 5, 2010

Victoria Mekus and Matt Wooten, 17-year-old seniors at St. Aloysius High School, have different plans for college.

Matt, the son of Melinda Purvis, said he wants to play football, probably at Hinds Community College. Victoria, the daughter of Mike and Patty Mekus, said she’s trying to land a scholarship to go out of state, preferably Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Those goals, the pair said, motivated them to attend a free interview skills workshop sponsored by the Behavioral Health Foundation and the Make A Promise Coalition for a Drug-Free Warren County.

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“When you’re being recruited, you have to know how to talk to coaches,” Matt said after the Monday workshop, at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel off East Clay Street. “I thought coming here would help me with that.”

Victoria said she’s planning to vie for scholarships that might require applicants to participate in interview.s “I want to knock as much off the out-of-state tuition as I can,” she said.

The interview skills workshop, led by speaker Sharonda Medina, included tips for succeeding in college and job interviews as well as time for the eight students who attended to question each other with techniques recommended by Medina.

The tips included:

• Research the company or college that’s interviewing you.

“This is the No. 1 area where people mess up in interviews,” Medina said. “They just think, ‘I’m going to show up, be myself and be charming.’ That’s not enough. Most of your work should be done before the interview itself.”

• Dress appropriately.

“You want to dress so that nothing you wear is distracting the interviewer from your face,” Medina said. “You want people to look at your face, not your oversized earrings.”

• Never answer a question with a simple “yes” or “no.”

• Remember that a job interview isn’t over until you leave the office.

• Follow up after the interview with a thank-you note or e-mail.

• Be prepared for difficult questions such as, “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” or “What are your biggest weaknesses?”

Regarding the latter question, “there’s no weakness that can’t be flipped into an asset,” Medina said. “If you tend to be stubborn, you can say something like, ‘I can be stubborn, but it sure does motivate me to work harder.’”