By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
BENTON TOWNSHIP — What’s your greatest strength? Why would you want to work here? How much experience do you have?
Those were some of the questions volunteers asked students from Benton Harbor, Dowagiac and Hartford high schools during Mock Interview Day at Whirlpool Corp.’s global headquarters in Benton Township.
The mock interviews are an annual collaboration between Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) and Whirlpool’s African American Network (WAAN). During their visit to Whirlpool, participating JMG students show off the interview and employability skills they learned throughout the school year.
Nearly 20 students each sat through two mock interviews Monday with Whirlpool volunteers. The event gave JMG students real-world interview experience, while also getting tips and advice from volunteer interviewers.
Benton Harbor senior Tiarria Burrell joined the JMG program last year. Burrell said her friends kept telling her it would be a good class for her since she loves interacting with people.
Burrell said her favorite part of the mock interviews was the follow-up discussion.
“The feedback was great for me,” Burrell said. “I learned that they are normal people, and a lot of them started out just like me. They are very generous and offered a lot of information for me. I could see myself doing this in the future.”
JMG is a statewide initiative meant to raise Michigan’s high school graduation rate and increase post-secondary education. In the 2015-16 school year, JMG is serving 1,550 students across 25 Michigan cities – including 250 students in Benton Harbor, Hartford, Dowagiac and Cassopolis.
The program’s executive director, Kristin Harrington, said Mock Interview Day was created by a former Whirlpool employee six years ago.
When the employee relocated out of the state, Harrington said she partnered with WAAN to “carry the torch.”
“We have had numerous conversations with the Whirlpool African American Network. We believe our program, long-term, can become a diverse talent pipeline into Whirlpool,” Harrington said. “Events like this gives us the opportunity to expose students and connect them to meaningful employment opportunities.”
Whirlpool volunteers were on hand to provide students with career insight to expose them to a variety of career pathways, such as marketing, sales, engineering and information technology.
Joseph Taylor, a master technician for Whirlpool, was volunteering for the event for the third time on Monday.
Taylor said he got involved through WAAN when they sent out information in the search for help. In addition to asking the normal questions and keeping eye contact, Taylor said it is important to get to know your potential employer.
“My favorite part is giving back to make sure these young people are well-versed in the interviewing process because this is going to be a lifelong learning experience,” Taylor said. “For a lot of these students, this is their first job interview.”