Nailing the interview, whether it is for a job or a place in further education, is the first step toward a great career and therefore a prosperous and hopefully happy future. John Gray High School students in year 12 have recently been given a grilling by Cayman’s human resource professionals to prepare them for this first important contact with their new adult world. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull finds out more and reports.
Generation NOW (No Opportunity Wasted) is a group of like-minded professionals all keen to see Cayman’s youth develop to its full potential. Led by financial fund analyst Stanford Williams, the group is small but effective.
Over the course of this academic year the group has organised twice monthly presentations to an enthusiastic group of some 40 to 60, year 12 students at the John Gray High School on various topics ranging from exam study skills, scholarships (both government and privately funded), career opportunities, interviewing skills and the importance of continuing their education.
Generation NOW is Christian-based in its principles and Stanford says that one of the primary goals of the group is to instil into the members of youth with whom they work, a sense of positive values that are becoming hard to find in our society today. It is also the intent of the organisation to offer financial assistance for students to continue their tertiary education and this is an area that the group wishes to expand further.
“It would be great if more like-minded individuals could join us in our efforts and help us expand, both in our outreach and financial assistance,” Stanford says. “We expect to award our first financial assistance this year to two students. We intend that this assistance not be confined to any one field of study, but to be available for a variety of career paths. The organisation hopes to make public the full details of this assistance over the next couple of months.”
Also in the organisation are Donald Spence, Eziethamae Bodden, Andre Ebanks, Olivaire Watler and Marco Archer. The patron is
A few of the organisation’s presentations at the John Gray High School this year were facilitated by the members of the Cayman Islands Human Resource professionals. These presentations provided pointers and guidelines on career options and interviewing skills. Out of those initial sessions was developed the mock interview exercise, whereby students were interviewed by HR professionals as if they were in a real life situation.
Cheryl Palmer is human resources manager at AL Thompson’s Home Depot and was one such professional who worked with the students to improve their interview techniques.
She gives some background to the exercise: “The students were asked to compile and bring their resumes to this session. The pupils that I interviewed did not have their resumes with them but they were asked their chosen career path and my questions focused around a position in that particular field. I had prepared a list of generic questions, which were posed to each student to ensure consistency.”
Cheryl says her students were extremely fluent in their responses, they gave sound examples to back up their responses, gave good eye contact and if a little nervous seemed to hide this well. They were extremely polite, gave good firm handshakes and had prepared parting questions.
She adds: “A few of the students struggled to really sell themselves in terms of outlining their strengths and qualities and also explaining how they had improved themselves over the past year – but they can build on this once they gain confidence.“In terms of assisting the students, I feel this exercise was extremely worthwhile. The students have been able to gain a full understanding of the recruitment process and how best to ensure success when applying for a particular position. They have an insight into the types of interviews they may face be it a panel or perhaps psychometric testing or assessment centres. They understand the importance of having an updated, concise and factual resume and how to conduct and prepare themselves for interview.”
Cheryl says she was extremely impressed by the commitment and interaction of the JGHS pupils and looks forward to meeting them again in the future when they are searching for employment.
Jan Peters, manager, human resources with the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism also took part and says the interviews were conducted completely as if they were in a real life setting.
She furthers: “Both students I interviewed were capable of articulating many real world examples to support their responses to my behavioural and situational styled questions. I was quite impressed. Both the students seemed prepared although quite nervous.”
Importantly, Jan says the feedback they received from the students relating their responses to the experience were all very positive.
“Both students I interviewed expressed their gratitude for being provided with an opportunity to practice their interviewing skills and receive direct feedback on how they can polish their presentation and prepare for the real thing. They learned that non-verbal behaviour can be as important as the quality of the information they share during the process. Maintaining good eye contact and displaying a confident posture are examples of feedback they appreciated,” she explains.
Glenn Whewell, acting vice principal at JGHS said 90 per cent of the students rated the overall experience as 10 out of 10, 5 per cent gave it a rating of 9 out of 10 and 5 per cent 7 out of 10.
Comments from the students included the following:
“Before the mock interview I was really nervous about being interviewed but next time I would feel much more confident.”
“I learnt to sit up when talking.”
“Next time I would take a note book in to record any points.”
“I learnt for next time that I need to sell myself more during the interview by describing my positives and past achievements.”
“I learnt to have some prepared questions before going into the interview.”
“Always have a CV ready when going for an interview.”
“I learnt that after the mock interview I can in fact do this.”
Glenn adds: “Generation NOW have made great strides in helping our students bridge some of the gaps between the world of work and their last year in school. In particular their organising of the mock interviews proved an invaluable experiential learning activity for our students. Those who attended the mock interviews left with increased awareness, appreciation and understanding of what it truly feels like to take part in a real firstjob interview.
“Such educational experiences can only help further develop our young people about what to expect when they leave school to enter the outside world of work. In particular I would like to thank the human resource specialists for volunteering three of their lunch periods to help our valued students at John Gray.”
Should you wish to learn more about Generation NOW and how you may help, call Stanford Williams on 925-6836.