Practice Makes Perfect during Annual Mock Interview Day

CSULB engineering students Friday had a chance to hone their interview skills with major companies at the annual Mock Interviews event put on by the College of Engineering Department of Professional Development and Internships.

Representatives from three dozen companies, including the Aerospace Corp., Boeing, Disney, Southern California Edison, and Xerox, filled tables in the University Student Union, donating their time to interview students and provide feedback on areas for improvement.

“I think it’s important to help the students get comfortable with interviewing,” said Eric Thibodeau, a workflow business manager with Xerox. “After all, it’s something nobody likes to do.”

To make himself less foreboding as a potential hiring manager, Thibodeau rearranged the chairs so the table was not in the middle of himself and his interviewee.

Preparing a resume that effectively describes an applicant’s story is just as important as gaining proficiency with interviewing, said Thibodeau, who earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Purdue University and an MBA from CSULB.

“Everybody needs help on their resumes. And of course you’ve got to have the right keywords,” Thibodeau said, adding that students should be sure to include team and group projects as well as coursework.

When asked how they felt about their upcoming mock interview, most students—even those who were well-prepared—admitted to being nervous. Electrical engineering freshman Kyle Gee said his mock interview showed him just how unprepared he was. His interviewer with the city of Anaheim provided tips on how to phrase sentences and link his experience to the job at hand.

Civil engineering senior Enrique Polanco said he felt nervous before his first mock interview of the day. But after two interviews and waiting for his third, Polanco– wearing a crisp, white shirt, blue tie, and polished shoes–was surging with confidence.

With an interest in water resources, Polanco is looking for a position with a government agency. “The interviewers have given me lots of feedback and told me areas I can improve on,” he said.

Interviewers asked lots of behavioral questions, he said, including the inevitable first question: “So tell me about yourself.” Polanco said it’s important to offer a concise, informative summary and not ramble on. That summary should also draw a connection between your skills and experiences and the company.

“You have to be able to perfect that question,” Polanco said. “And you have to present it in a way where they’ll remember you for a long time.”

Yosief Gebregiorgis, an operations engineer at Southern California Edison, said people skills are just as essential as a strong academic background. In an interview situation, jobseekers should understand who they’re talking to, avoid personality clashes, and develop a rapport with the interviewer.

“It’s not just how smart you are. It’s about fitting in and having a good working relationship too,” he said.