Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Alumni put students through paces during mock interviews

Eleven alumni and an instructor carried out mock interviews with 41 first-year La Follette school students, giving each practice at interviewing for a job or internship.

Participating professionals

  • Charles Carlson, 1976, independent human resources consultant
  • Bill Cosh, 2008, spokesperson, Wisconsin Department of Justice
  • Monique Currie, lead policy analyst and program manager, Bureau of Transit at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation
  • Andy Feldman, director of BadgerStat and lecturer at the La Follette School
  • Shelley Hagan, 1983, director of the Office of Juvenile Offender Review, Division of Juvenile Corrections, Wisconsin Department of Corrections
  • Keith Krinke, 1990, public policy practitioner in management, labor relations and human resources; instructor, certified public manager program, University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies
  • Karen McKim, 1977, recently retired as quality assurance and research manager for Medicaid-funded long-term care programs, Wisconsin Department of Health Services
  • Kim Reniero, 1995, advisor to administrator and operations manager, Division of Motor Vehicles, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
  • John Tuohy, 1983, director of regional operations, Wisconsin Department of Children and Families
  • Andrew Turner, 2008, vice president for lending services, Forward Community Investments
  • John Vander Meer, 2006, communications director, Wisconsin Health Care Association and Wisconsin Center for Assisted Living
  • Sam Wayne, 2005 alum, attorney with a Madison law firm

The session was part of the one-credit professional development workshop first-year students take.

"Mock interviews help job seekers prepare themselves," says associate director Donald Moynihan, who teaches the course. "We appreciate our alumni contributing their time to help out students practice talking about themselves, outlining their strengths and illustrating how well they work under pressure."

Each student spent 30 minutes with a professional in one of 12 faculty or staff offices on three floors of the La Follette building on November 30. Each professional interviewed as many as four students, asking standard interview questions and giving the student the chance to tell her or his story.

"I was impressed with the résumés that these first-year graduate students had compiled," says interviewer Shelley Hagan, a 1983 alum and director of the Office of Juvenile Offender Review, Division of Juvenile Corrections, Wisconsin Department of Corrections. "They already had significant real-world experience to bring to their public policy studies, which I have to believe will make them better students as well as more attractive to future employers."

The students appreciated talking with real-world professionals. "I thought the mock interviews were helpful because the alum who interviewed me had experience in jobs that I am interested in," says Michelle Prost, a student in the master of public affairs program. She interviewed with 1995 alum Kim Reniero, advisor to the administrator and operations manager of the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles. "She pointed out questions that would be asked for those particular jobs and gave me a chance to practice answering them. She also answered my questions about what the work environment is like in those jobs."

Alumni shared reflections on their own careers. "I also had the opportunity to talk to my interviewer about his career path and learn about potential jobs in my area of interest," says Ben Nerad, an MPA student. "This experience gave me a chance to practice my interviewing skills so that I can be better prepared and more confident when I enter the job market."

Tawsif Anam welcomed the opportunity to practice answering questions frequently asked during interviews, including why he was interested in a position as a policy analyst. Other questions let him present his accomplishments and how he dealt with a disagreement in the workplace.

He spoke with Karen McKim, a 1977 alum who recently retired as quality assurance and research manager for Medicaid-funded long-term care programs, Wisconsin Department of Health Services. During her career, she led recruitment and hiring processes at DHS and at the Legislative Audit Bureau. "Given her long experience in the public sector, she gave me valuable tips and suggestions pertaining to my answers and evaluated my strengths and weaknesses," says Anam, who is in the MPA program."I also received comments on my résumé and received an impression of how it may be evaluated by interview panels for the kind of jobs that I am interested in. After I left the interview room, I felt more confident than I was before going in."

"The mock interviews were a really insightful way to not only practice interview skills, but to also speak with La Follette alumni about their jobs and career paths," says Kelsey Roets, who is in the Master of International Public Affairs program.

"Given intense competition for great jobs, interview practice is so valuable," says interviewer Andy Feldman, who taught the advanced public management course at La Follette this fall. "The La Follette students I interviewed were really impressive, and I hope the interview practice gave them additional confidence to pursue their dream jobs."

"I was pleased by the quality of the discussion and the personal focus," says MPA student Phil Sletten. "My interviewer had a genuine interest in helping me make connections for future work."

"Some people can get cynical about politics or the political system, but I found a great deal of passion and enthusiasm, not to mention optimism about what is possible," says interviewer Andrew Turner, 2008, vice president for lending services, Forward Community Investments. "Both of my interviewees struck me, in different ways, as brave individuals willing to take a stand for what they believe in."