Teaching the skills to land the job

handshake for blog

The dining room in the Coalition’s Center for Women and Families was the setting yesterday for nine students to practice the foundation of business greetings: the handshake. One by one, their instructor André Howard shook the hand of each member of the class.

“Not one pump, but three,” he reminds them. “One, two, three, let go.” To one student, with a softer grip, he says, “Break it!” One jokingly offers a fist bump, as Andre explains that she’s been feeling under the weather.

André has been employed with Coalition’s on-site partner Goodwill Industries of Central Florida for the last 17 years. In all, he has more than 30 years’ experience in the employee training field. Today, he is teaching the finer points of managing an interview as a part of his Employability Skills Class.

Offered every other month, the class covers everything from the importance of a good firm handshake to tough interview questions. André is making sure his homeless students will be prepared, and most importantly, confident about stepping out into the world to find employment.

Following a critique of everyone’s handshake, André moves on to how to greet a potential employer when applying for a job.

“Be mindful of the fact that when you go, they’re not just interviewing you. You’re interviewing them,” he says to the class. “Ultimately the decision of whether you take the job lies with you.”

As the rest of the class observes, each of the students takes their turn at an imaginary doorway as André models the potential employer. They practice walking up to his desk, introducing themselves, and handing him a resume while the rest of the class observes.

One member followed her script flawlessly, but faltered on the last handshake.

“Once I get in the real environment, I’ll knock ‘em dead,” she promised.

“You did very well. Do you all agree?” he asks, as the class applauds her effort. “The more you go through this, the better it will get. Practice it. Ask someone to play the role of the employer.”

Next, the class is given a homework assignment to study a list of the most challenging job interview questions. Again, the class practiced giving their best answers: What is your biggest weakness? What do you know about our company? Why should we hire you over everyone else?

“It’s like tennis. You’ve got to be firm and banter those answers back,” André stresses. “You’ve got to be a quick thinker.”

He reminds them that each and every one of them has those skills. “We are all quick thinkers already, when talking to friends, or even in an argument with a spouse.” He points to the class with a promise to catch them in the act of quick thinking.

“When you see me pointing at you like that, I’m reminding you that you have those skills.”

This statement is perhaps the most important take-away from today’s class. Thanks to André, our residents can be assured that they will be prepared to take an important step toward regaining their independence: landing a job.