With the lines for even relatively low-level jobs sometimes stretching out the door and around the corner, every edge you can get for the interview is important. That’s where the mock interview comes in, especially if your experience in the interview seat is limited.
How can a mock job interview help you breeze through the actual interview? It’s simple, really. The old saying is that practice makes perfect, and that has never been truer than when discussing job interviews. For many people it’s an almost unbearable situation; high pressure, your future is on the line, and 50 people lined up behind you to take the job.
That’s where a mock job interview can pay huge dividends. You’ll not only put yourself in the hot seat multiple times, so the feeling is more familiar, but you’ll get to analyze how you handle it, whether you have any habits that may detract from a real interview, and how you sound when responding to questions.
Video – Sometimes, There Is No Better Way
Typically, you’ll video record your mock interviews to aid in the analysis process. While not a pure necessity, it adds to the technique’s effectiveness significantly.
Just as with fine-tuning your golf swing or tennis serve, many things are easy to spot and correct when playing back on video that may be difficult or impossible to detect without it. That is partially why the mock interview technique is so valuable; it lets you see what the interviewer sees, so you can be proactive in making correcting problems.
How should you use this technique to maximize its effectiveness?
First, prepare just as you would for the real thing. That’s beneficial in two ways. First, it gives you preparation practice getting all your information in order and gives you a chance to discover any missing pieces early, so you’re not stressing out half an hour before your real interview is supposed to start, looking for some miscellaneous piece of paper.
The second way a realistic preparation level helps you is that you’ll be able to answer the questions much more realistically, just as you will be expected to in the real thing.
To prepare, get all your job and education history in order and close at hand. Go through it to ensure nothing is missing, and refresh any details you may have forgotten. You’ll be expected to know these things like the back of your hand, so be sure that you do.
One powerful analysis technique that can help you get ready for many an interviewer’s favorite question is to quiz a few close friends on your relative strengths and weaknesses. Although you may be better than most at self-analysis, getting a more objective and external point of reference is valuable here. Interviewers love to ask about these things, so getting the scoop from close friends and relatives makes things much more clear.
Look into the future and plan where you want your career to be in the next 2 years and 5 years. Haven’t done that before? It’s a good idea, and having a real answer to the question will not only help you visualize and achieve success, and make answering the inevitable question so much easier when posed by the mock interviewer. Real and mock interviewers alike thrive on such questions that strive to peer deep into your soul.
How will you conduct the interview? At its most basic level, you can give a friend a sample question list and have them ask you. While having a friend grill you for half an hour is certainly better than nothing, it does leave something to be desired. After all, your friend is someone you know well and there is really no pressure like you’ll experience on the actual interview. Maybe if you use an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend, it would ratchet up the stress level.
If you are using a friend and self-analyzing the footage, here are things to look for:
・ Your voice, specifically the volume and inflection – Many people become nervous and tend to speak too fast in stressful situations…”Hi, Officer!” or their voice cracks and doesn’t hold tone. While you are probably going to be at least somewhat nervous, knowing your vocal tendencies will help you combat any problems somewhat.
・ Posture and Mannerisms – You want to sit up straight, and project confidence. Looking at your video will help you whether or not you do. Are you sitting straight and looking at the interviewer, or averting your eyes and slumping down in your chair? Do you unconsciously touch any parts of your body repetitively, or make any gestures that are out of place in an interview? Are you making any distracting moves or gestures? Now is the time to correct any such issues before they have a chance to impact an actual job interview.
・ Where is your focus? If you exhibit a tendency to appear distracted or look around the room, you can bet an interviewer will notice, and it won’t reflect well on you. Now is the time to nip such things in the bud.
・ How do you address questions regarding previous employers? You do not want to badmouth them, regardless of how much hell they put you through. Now is not the time. Save that for Friday night with your friends. Be sure your answers to these and other questions are at all times professional and courteous. It is much easier to see this when examining the video. You may see some things that surprise you, but better to be surprised now than disappointed later.
While using friends and neighbors for a mock interview is certainly better than nothing, there are better ways to conduct the process. Many areas have companies that offer mock interview and coaching services specifically for preparation purposes. They will use experienced interviewers, making the entire experience much more realistic, and doing a better job at getting you ready for the real thing.
While some of these are expensive, it can be money well spent, as a trained and experienced interview coach knows what hiring managers are looking for and can spot many things you might miss or not deem important.
They will evaluate your performance and help you through the process with more focus on the areas where you need the most improvement. Since they have been through this many times before, they’ll know where best to spend your time and how to make the most of it.
Some services offer free introductory consultations, which can be a great way to see if you find value in their services. As a bonus, you’ll usually learn a thing or two from their free consultation, even if you never hire them as full-service consultants. Some firms will also give more value-oriented packages that, while not delivering full coaching and mock interviews, can nevertheless prove valuable in helping you overcome weaknesses and performing better come interview time.
Many college placement offices also have mock interview services using experienced personnel. If you are about to emerge from the collegiate life and dive into the real world, check with yours regarding such services’ availability. It can be even more beneficial if you have relatively little work experience.
No matter how you do it, the mock job interview can be a highly effective tool in your preparation process. If you can participate, it is almost guaranteed to give you an unfair advantage in the job hunt, and really, isn’t that just what you want?