Volunteering Not To Hire Students

3 minutes

InterviewMock Interviews for 6th Formers at Sexey’s School, Bruton

A couple of weeks ago I spent an afternoon interviewing 6th formers who had no intention of accepting work.  This was lucky really, as I was interviewing them with no position to offer them anyway.

Inspiring the Future is a charity.   It runs a scheme where volunteers offer to share some of their skills with schools in their local area.  When you volunteer, you commit to giving at leas 1 hour of your time – although you can give much more.

My mother was a teacher, so I have been exposed to more f the education system than many people.  As an indirect result, I am passionate about children’s education being fit for purpose.  In fact I am passionate about education being the very best it can be, so rather than get on my soap box (again), I volunteered.

Do check to see if your company will fund a small amount of volunteer work.  Many do, including my employers, NewVoiceMedia, who do so as part of their ‘Giving Voice’ scheme.  Even if your company doesn’t offer this, could you spare just 1 hour per year of your own time?

How it works

I logged on to the Inspiring the Future website & created a short bio.  This helps schools select skills that matched their particular needs, & then waited for a request for my time.   If I were free, and the opportunity appealed to me, I can accept the request.

There are many ways that schools engage.  A request could be to give a short talk to year 10’s about how you got into your profession.  Perhaps they would like to know what its like working in your business sector.  In my case, I was one of about ten people who agreed to mock-interview 6th formers who had just finished their exams.

Naturally, at certain times of the year there are more of these sort of events than others.

My Experience that afternoon

I had heard of Sexey’s School in Bruton before, as these are schools in my chosen area.  It has an excellent reputation for turning out well-rounded pupils.

In the days leading up to the event I cast my mind back to the careers advice I had been given at that age.   I recalled my awful skill levels when interacting with anyone with more than a 2 year age diffference to myself.  In short, I’ll confess that I had set a fairly low bar based entirely on my own, ancient history.

I was surprised firstly upon arrival by how many of us volunters there were – somewhere around 8 or 10 I think.  We were from all sorts of business backgrounds.  During the course of the afternoon I overheard several other interviews in progress.  Everyone’s style varied, although all were professional & represented the process students were likely to face when interviewed for a real role.

The school had set the room up so we were at individual tables, about 2 metres apart from each other.   Each station had water, a schedule for each interview  & some sensible suggestions for questions to ask students.

There was also a score sheet for each student.  These were to ensure that each student got feedback on all aspects off their interview.  Topics covered included presentation, appropriateness of dress, style of answers and non-verbal communication.  There was room for notes at the side of each score so that you could elaborate if you needed.  At the bottom  was room to give an overall impression.

Each student I saw that day (there were 5 in total) was amazing.  They were articulate, passionate about their subjects and their futures.  The students had obviously thought about questions they were likely to be asked.  As I mentioned, I wasn’t following the sheet so this was genune preparation I saw in quality answers.  As I left at the end of the afternoon I reflected how every single one of them would have been a good, solid hire.  I also found I was somewhat disappointed that these clever young people were not actually on the market!

More than that though is the heartening fact that schools have stepped up so well in preparing students for working life.  The press is full of articles about falling standards in schools, and of school leavers with little hope of jobs.  This is not what I found at all.

What I saw instead was a school taking its role in preparing students for real life extremely seriously, and delivering on that very successfully.  So engaged were the students I interviewed I found myself recommending books to several of them.  Books they might find interesting or particularly relevant to their chosen courses or interests.  I must also thank @robertlambert for kindly allowing me to gift the school with a .pdf copy of his short book “how to interview well” to share with the students.

Maybe I was just lucky with the school I went to, that they were particularly good.  But I was left with a very warm feeling that great education is out there, and if one school can do it, then others can too (despite what the press might tell us).

I would encourage you to offer a couple of hours of your time via Inspiring the Future  or a similar organisation.  Believe me when I say that its easy, rewarding to you and valuable to the receivers.

Do you know of other organisations that are doing this sort of volunteering for business?