Interviewing with a prospective employer can be an intimidating experience for anyone, and especially for someone who never has been through the process before. That is why the Business Education Alliance, a partnership between the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and USD 250, provided that experience for more than 200 juniors from three area high schools during the past two days. “These two days we worked with students’ interview skills,” said Mindy Cloninger, who chaired the committee and also is the director of Pittsburg State University Career Services. She said about 35 community leaders from health fields, banks, businesses, education, municipal government, military and the university helped interview students from Pittsburg High School, Northeast High School and St. Mary’s Colgan. “Students had the opportunity to visit with real-world professionals,” Cloninger said, adding that many of the volunteers brought the professional world with them through their attire and mannerisms. “Mock interview day is a bit of a wake-up call for young people who think they’re ready to go into the work force.” However, the feedback is given with care and encourages students toward personal growth. “We want them to learn the interview process and to evaluate themselves as candidates,” Cloninger said. This includes looking at work experience, job skills and other personality traits that students can demonstrate during interviews. Amanda Martin, a junior at Pittsburg High School, said she is hoping to go into military and nursing careers and found the interview process helpful. “They went really good,” she said. “I learned a lot about other people’s jobs and what they do,” Martin said. “Some people were talking about being so nervous and came out saying, ‘It is so easy.’” She said it was helpful to be able to relate her experience baby-sitting and doing lawn care to her hoped-for future careers. “With nursing, you have to be able to care, and baby-sitting helps a lot,” Martin said. Junior Brianna Filby, who hopes to do photography and interior design, said practice will help with nerves once she interviews for a professional job. “(I learned) basically not to be so nervous and what an employer is looking for,” she said. “If you have good eye contact and good posture, you are more likely to get the job.” For junior Kagen White, it helped to know to expect the unexpected. “I learned how to stay calm in very tight situations,” he said. “The questions (my interviewer) asked me kind of caught me off guard.” But, the process is meant to be enjoyable for everyone involved. “The people who do this, they really do have a good time,” Cloninger said. “It really is a conversation of what they can bring to the table,” Cloninger said, adding that the goal is to help students to know it is all right to relax and have a conversation about whether the job will be a good fit. Understanding the goal was helpful for students as well. “Since doing mock interviews, it helped a lot,” Martin said. “Now you know what to do and what to expect when you go.” This is the second career preparation event for area juniors this school year. Students’ resumes were reviewed in late October, and they will continue the process with the Career Opportunities Day after the first of the year. Additionally sophomores are learning about possible career options during classes and will do a job shadow day in the spring semester.