We all remember our first job interview.
The nerves, the sweaty palms, the need to maintain eye contact the whole time and the fretting in our minds about what kind of first impression we are making.
It’s a tricky skill to get right and it’s very good to start early to perfect it.
That’s why Cams Hill School in Fareham decided it was time to give its pupils a head start.
The school understands what a big deal the dreaded first job interview can be.
So the school’s education co-ordinator, Louise Ferrier, outlined plans for a day of mock interviews for Year 10 students.
A total of 23 firms and organisations were invited along, while other schools and colleges in the area also took part.
I was given the opportunity to discover the journalists of the future.
On a hot morning, we all gathered in the school ahead of our meetings with the nation’s future workforce.
We were told that some pupils were very nervous, but I could tell from my fellow interviewers that it would not faze them.
This was an exercise designed to specialise in building a child’s future, not a self-pity show.
We all filed into the school’s hall, where we were given sheets on how best to rate the performance of the students.
The categories were organised into first impressions, the content our interviewees provided, their body language, how they closed the interview and what were our impressions of the exercise.
There was an aura of expectation when the first students walked in and as soon as the handshakes started flowing, the room became a hive of energy.
Bold smiles stood out among a sea of anxious looks as each student’s name was called out.
I had three young candidates looking to impress and the first was a 15-year-old girl who was professional from the start.
An aspiring writer, eager news reader and magazine enthusiast, she began her interview with a brisk confidence that never stopped over the course of the 15 minutes.
A model student, she told me about her dream that she would write for a fashion magazine one day.
Her enthusiasm was thrilling as we talked in great detail about the journey into the competitive world of journalism.
The skillset that she had acquired through various out-of-school activities would certainly help her take on the role of a journalist.
While she spoke well, she also made sure she acted the part as well.
Her eyes never wavered from direct contact and she never allowed herself to get flustered when she had to mull over a question.
By the time the interview was up, I think she was so relieved it was over that she rushed through the goodbye handshake.
But all-in-all, she had left a very solid impression.
I can only hope this potential journalist gets her wish and ends up in the media industry.
Unfortunately, I then had to wait a while as my second candidate had phoned in sick.
So I prepared for the third student while watching the techniques used by my fellow interviewers.
I noticed that many of my peers were getting out from behind their desks.
This allowed them to take a more informal approach without the desk acting as a barrier.
When my next and last interviewee strolled up, I decided to adopt the same approach.
Moving the desk out of the way, I could see the anxiety seep away from the 15-year-old boy and he began to talk about himself.
There was certainly no lack of ambition in this student, but his application form had not been filled out well.
I explained to him the importance of selling yourself to the employer before they even see you.
There was a dogged determination in this teenager that showed me he was eager to fulfil his potential.
He just needed the right guidance to help get him there.
While he was perhaps less prepared for the interview than the would-be journalist, he made up for that with a convincing first impression and I also wish him the best for his future.
Speaking after the interviews had finished, education co-ordinator Louise said the experience had been ‘extremely successful’ for the students.
‘For our first year, to have so many businesses take part, and to get such great fantastic feedback, it was extremely successful.
‘One of the companies has already offered one of the pupils an apprenticeship when he leaves school.
‘All of the pupils seem to really enjoy it.
‘I know a lot were nervous, but there was a real buzz in the air.
‘Usually, children at this age do not know what to do.
‘So this exercise is perfect in helping them develop connections with the real world.
‘I think we achieved that aim today.’