“You will never have a first interview again,” Alana Ellenburg told her freshmen students. “That was it.”

Ellenburg was sending Pepperell High School students from her High School 101 class to interview with real employers as part of an annual mock interview exercise. The employers were scattered around the Pepperell High Media Center and gave students feedback once the interview had concluded.

“They are doing pretty well for freshmen,” said David Henson of Georgia Power.

Henson said some of the advice he has been giving the students is to tailor the answers to the job they are applying for. He also has been reminding them to sell themselves. He told the interviewees to use any clubs, sports or organization they have been a part of as experience. Henson’s interview partner was Zac Garrett, a senior at Pepperell who has an internship at Georgia Power. Ellenburg said Garrett went through her High School 101 class when he was a freshman.

After the students would get done with their interviews Ellenburg would talk to the students on their feedback from the employers and ask them what they thought.

“Is it easier than you thought it would be?” she asked a group of her students.

“Oh, way easier,” Justin Terry replied.

Johns Pillsbury, a Kiwanis Club member and regular volunteer, said the feedback he had been getting back from the students had been positive.

“Some said they were nervous for the first one,” he said of the interviews. “But they feel more confident by the second (round).”

There is no strict time limit, he said. The goal was to get the students through as many rounds of interviews as possible during the class period, but if some took their time that was fine, too. One group of students got through as many as four rounds of interviews while another only got two, he noted.

Kiwanis Club supplied several of the volunteers and they worked with the members to try and bring a diversity of business professionals in for the interviews. Each year the new companies join the mock interview exercise.

“Community and business people really turn out and invest in the Pepperell community every year,” she said.

Another angle to this exercise is the inclusion of students from the Human Resources Principles class taught by business teacher David Mowery. His students learned about interviewing last semester and they were invited by Ellenburg to help interview the freshmen, which sophomore Hannah Agan volunteered to do.

“We are now training the interviewers and the interviewees,” Ellenburg said.