PITTSBURG -- Brianna Neal wore a smart black jacket to Pittsburg High School, the kind of attire one would wear to a job interview.
Neal, a 16-year-old junior at the school, was among almost 300 students who got a taste of what it's like to be interviewed by a prospective employer or a college-admissions officer¿ during a mock-interview day at the school Tuesday.
About 40 representatives of local businesses and government agencies participated in the all-day event, which was co-sponsored by the Pittsburg Chamber of Commerce and the Pittsburg Unified School District.
Not only did Neal dress the part, but her demeanor and responses to questions also were impressive, said Belinda Hernandez-Russo of Hernandez Collision and Towing, who conducted the 20-minute interview at one of several tables set up in the gymnasium.
One of the questions: How does the experience of high school help prepare one for a job?
"I think being in high school gives you a chance to learn how to balance your life," said Neal, who is already doing some balancing. She has a part-time job tutoring elementary students, has done some Web design work and plans to work while attending college to study psychology and criminology.
Participation was voluntary among the students, who brought resumes with them.
Kimberly Morales, an 18-year-old senior, shared her aspirations to study either graphic design or the culinary arts in college with Cindy Bridges, a financial services consultant at the Bank of the West branch in Pittsburg.
"We start out having them tell us about themselves and what do they plan to do after high school," said Bridges, adding the questions that are asked are tracked to whether the student plans to join the workforce or go to college.
"I got to experience what it is like to do an actual interview," said Morales, who said she was nervous before the interview began. She learned that it's a good idea to have some questions ready to ask the interviewer.
Dahlia Veneracion, a 17-year-old junior, received both praise and some advice on her resume after completing a mock interview with Matthew Makowski, a partner with the San Francisco office of New York Life Insurance.
"Some resumes are like 'War and Peace.' Most of it's fluff; we know that," he said. "What I really like is you just have those bullet points."
He then suggested adding interests and hobbies.
"What does the person do, do they juggle, do they cook? It's important to write those things; it connects you with the interviewer a little bit more," he said.
Veneracion, who works as a host at a Chili's restaurant, plans to add her hobbies -- cheerleading, track and other extracurricular activities -- to her resume. "This has definitely helped. There is always room for improvement," she said.
It's the first time that the mock-interview day has taken place at the school, said Harry York, the chamber's chief executive officer, who held a similar event when he worked at Reno's chamber.
"They get to brush up their interview skills," said Pittsburg High Principal Todd Whitmire. "The next step in this down the road is how can we partner with corporations or companies or small businesses that maybe can offer either unpaid or paid internships or job shadowing."
The mock-interview day is a preliminary event to the third annual career fair at the school, on May 22 from 7:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
"That's why we thought we would do this beforehand, because many of the same employers will be there next week," Whitmire said.
The chamber already has about 50 companies lined up for career day, and more may be added.¿ Call Monica Couture at 925-432-7301 for more information.