Career advice experts almost unanimously recommend mock interviews, particularly for folks who do not have much recent experience with this critical aspect of the job hunt. Before you invest the time and energy for a mock interview, here are ten tips to make the most of it:
1) Find the Right Interviewer
If you are extremely nervous about your first interview in a while, the support of family and friends is a good place to start. However, although this can be a great way to boost your confidence, it won’t be as effective in terms of getting an expert perspective on your performance.
If you are a college student or an alumna you can take advantage of the career services center on your campus. Most towns also have a job services department that may offer similar help. Or, leverage your social contacts to find someone with professional experience making hiring decisions and offer to buy them dinner in exchange for some time helping you hone your interviewing skills.
People with experience giving interviews are in the best position to spot common mistakes and give you precise directions for improvement that will make a difference. Now that is feedback you can count on!
Even though your mock interview is a practice run, to make the most of it you should prepare as much as you would for a real interview. This includes things like researching the company, reviewing your application materials, and thinking through likely interview questions.
The more work you do in advance of your mock interview, the more you will get out of the experience.
It will help your interviewer give you feedback on specific issues, such as how you frame your answers. In addition, it gives you a chance to try out your best answers to questions in the context of the actual job.
3) Set the Stage
Try to mimic the physical environment that is typical for a job interview so that you can acclimate to the power dynamics of the real deal. For example, use a table and chairs, layout the same materials you plan to bring to your interview, and turn off your phone and any other distractors.
Don’t hesitate to practice a little small talk before the interview as well. This can help prepare you for the sometimes awkward social moments right before the interview by trying on some conversation starters and seeing how they land.
4) Film Your Performance
There are four compelling reasons to film your performance in a mock interview. The first is that it adds a little bit of pressure, giving you a chance to manage your nerves and get more comfortable with being under intense scrutiny.
Second, it will give you and your interviewer a chance to closely review your performance and pinpoint areas that could have been stronger. This is especially true when it comes to nonverbal communication such as gestures, posture and facial expressions that can communicate unintended messages to the interview team.
Third, it allows you to stay present during the interview but keeps the door open for a detailed analysis after the fact. This way, you can preserve the flow of a normal interview, then go back as many times as you need to learn about what you did well and where you can stand some improvement.
Fourth, you can show the video to as many people as you like to get feedback from multiple perspectives. Make sure to ask folks to share both the positives and negatives of your performance so that you don’t get too discouraged.
5) Practice Common Questions
Every interview is unique. However, there are some common questions that tend to pop up over and over again. Hopefully you have prepared for them. Make sure your mock interview includes some of these more generic types of questions designed to assess your overall fit, competence and work ethic.
- Why do you want this job?
- What makes you a good fit for this company?
- What is your biggest strength and weakness relative to this position?
- Describe a challenge that you have faced in your professional life, along with how you overcame it.
- How do you handle situations where you are under a lot of pressure? Give an example.
- What is your preferred leadership style, and why?
6) Field Some Curve Balls
Hopefully you have found someone with some expertise in your field to put together some interview questions that are job specific and ask you to articulate the specific skills, education and experience that you have which make you an excellent fit for this particular position.
Hopefully they received your application materials in advance of your mock interview so that they can develop questions that will give you a chance to practice showcasing your strengths as well as address the areas where you have some room to grow into the position.
- This position requires a great deal of diplomacy. Describe a professional experience where you used good judgement to handle a sensitive situation.
- We are looking for someone with a strong background in social media marketing. What specific skills do you have to prepare you for that aspect of this position?
- Your educational background includes a B.S. from 20 years ago. What have you done to keep your knowledge base in this field up to date?
7) Dress for Success
Take the time to go through the motions from start to finish, including putting on the attire you plan to wear to the interview. This way you can be sure that each element of your planned outfit fits and is in good condition, giving you plenty of time to buy replacements if necessary.
Everything that you can do to simulate the actual interview helps you mentally prepare for the big day. Dressing for the part will also help keep you focused and serious about this opportunity to make the most of the perspectives of your mock interview team.
8) Listen to Feedback
If you go through the trouble of setting up a mock interview, be sure you stay open to the feedback your team gives you rather than responding defensively. The whole point of doing a mock interview is to get an external point of view on your performance that can guide your efforts to improve.
Well-meaning people sometimes get too caught up in analyzing the weak spots in an effort to be as helpful as possible. If the critique starts to feel overwhelming it is okay to ask for some positive impressions so that you can shift gears and put some focus on what you are doing well.
9) Take the Mulligan
One of the best reasons to do a mock interview is that you have a chance to work out the best answer to a question, rather than the first answer to a question. They are almost never the same answer!
If you have the chance to redo a question during your mock interview, take it. Or, if you are particularly green to job interviews, plan a few practice interviews in the weeks leading up to the big day so that you have more than one chance to work out the bugs before you are in the hot seat.
10) Send a Thank You Note
Finally, take the extra step to send the members of your mock interview team a sincere thank you note for their time and efforts. Use the same format that you plan to use for your actual follow up so that you get the feel for how to frame a post-interview thank you note.
After all, they have done you a service and their time is valuable too!