Forsyth students practice interviewing skills

Pre-Covid, students in Forsyth County schools met in-person with local business and industry partners for a series of mock interviews.
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Pre-Covid, students in Forsyth County schools met in-person with local business and industry partners for a series of mock interviews.

For the last several years, students and business owners in Forsyth County looked forward to the annual spring ritual of mock job interviews. Students were given sample job descriptions, and hundreds of school partners from local rotaries and chambers of commerce went to work with students on their interviewing skills.

But as with just about everything else in the last 15 months, those opportunities were cancelled by Covid.

“People always looked forward to coming into the schools, and the students took it very seriously,” said Valery Lowe, director of college and career development for Forsyth County Schools. “They came in professionally dressed with their resumes in hand.”

When Covid kept everyone at home, Lowe looked for another way to keep the momentum going. Through another career director in Douglas County, she learned about Talk Hiring, an automated mock-interview tool created in 2018 by a company in New York.

“The students and teachers were happy to have something to continue some sense of normalcy with the interviews,” said Lowe. “The students were still expected to appear in professional dress, just as they did in person. But each school wove it into their schedules and did it a bit differently. Some were conducted with students at home and others while they were in school.”

The automated interview system records audio and/or video through land lines, cell phones and computers. Students log in, and a synthetic voice pulls five questions from a bank of hundreds. After each session, students and teachers receive a recording to review.

“Schools love the reports we share,” said Harris Osserman, Talk Hiring’s CEO. “The feedback is on both presentation and context – pace, volume, tone, filler words, pauses and duration. It identifies two common issues: rambling or not having enough supporting examples. And it offers tips to reflect on.”

This spring, Forsyth students engaged in about 7,000 online interviews, and most got better with each try, said Osserman.

“We saw a 70% improvement in performance,” he said. “We nudge students to do some questions multiple times, then we can compare the first to the last answer. That’s where we saw the big improvement.”

Lowe said the automated option is a complement to the school district’s Career Launch, a seminar that prepares students for the hiring process. Designed through a collaboration with the University of North Georgia, the program has 12 modules that cover topics such as ethical behavior, what qualities are required for different careers and personal branding.

“Talk Hiring is a nice fit with both our Career Launch and in-person interviews, so we would like to keep it,” said Lowe. “But the students truly did miss having someone from business or industry evaluate them. Nothing can replace the human interaction.”

Information about Forsyth County Schools is online at forsyth.k12.ga.us.


SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.