By Devlin Brush
Job interviews, like sports and music, require practice for one to truly excel. However, while it pains me to to say this, I must inform you that there is no NCAA-sanctioned interviewing league. There are no intramural interview teams, no interview quartets offered by the School of Music, and you will probably receive blank stares if you ask your roommates to run a few interview sessions with you at the gym. So how can you practice your interviewing skills if everyone around you is giving you their best Allen Iverson impression? Two words: Mock Interviews.
Mock Interviews are generally held between a job seeker and a career advisor, and are offered at most career centers on University campuses (and every career center at UW!). The advisor will represent a mock employer, asking the job seeker some general questions that may resemble what they’ll see in an interview. While no mock interview can accurately predict every question that will be asked in a real interview, they can help the job seeker get a feel for the flow of the process, as well as the types of questions that a candidate may experience. For first-time interviewees, or those looking to get more serious about their job search, a mock interview can be an essential piece of preparation. Here are a few reasons you absolutely should try a mock interview:
One of the most frustrating things about the job search process can be a lack of feedback from employers. At every step, including your initial contact, sending in a resume, and conducting an interview, it can take weeks to get any type of response (if you get one at all!) On top of that, feedback is usually in the form of a yes or no. You typically won’t get a detailed review of your interview or resume, and asking for one can be awkward if you already know the employer isn’t interested.
After a mock interview, however, you can instantly find out how to improve your performance. It may be too much to think about in the moment, but you’re working with the complexities of communication at a high level during an interview, and there are lots of ways that you can slip up with just a word or two and not notice how it changes your message. A career advisor can help you catch those sorts of things, as well as press you to find stronger evidence of your skills so you can sell yourself better, all while your mock interview is fresh in your mind.
Practice situational thinking
In the course of an interview, it’s easy to be caught off guard by a question. For example, I’ve been asked a few times about my experiences dealing with a “tough customer,” a question that is impossible to answer because I have never had to deal with such an issue as far as I can remember. However, there’s a large qualitative difference between the first time I was asked, in which I paused to think for a while before coming up empty, and the last time, in which I was prepared to slightly change the topic to how I managed the challenges of serving differently abled customers. Many interviews will contain this type of situational thinking, in which you will be asked how you would deal with a specific problem based on your past experience. A mock interview is a great time to recall situations you’ve been in before an employer asks you about them. A confident, quick answer will make you seem more like the type of critical thinker who reflects on their experience often, and the preparation of a mock interview helps you get into that mindset. If you have a real interview on the horizon, it is recommended that you bring in the position description of the position you are applying to so that the mock interviewer can try to target their questions to get you thinking about the skills and experiences that the employer may be looking for.
Learn the formalities of an interview
There are a few things that rarely ever change about an interview. You will probably be asked to introduce yourself, have time to ask questions, and should dress appropriately and act professionally. Without any practice, though, this might not be so obvious. The introduction especially can be tough to improvise without preparation. While a weak introduction won’t kill your chances of getting a job, a strong one can set the tone for the entire interview. Approaching these formalities tends to be different for everyone; some will find success asking lots of questions, while others will feel better asking more specific questions only after they have been offered the job. Regardless, a little bit of experience with them is the only way you will discover how you would like to handle them. After a mock interview, an advisor can help you build a stronger introduction, brainstorm questions you may want to ask, and give you tips on how you can improve your demeanor.
There are many more reasons why a mock interview can be beneficial. If you’d like to give it a shot, the L&S Career Services office is holding a Mock Interview Day on October 27th, 2015 for all L&S Students. Students will have the chance to conduct a mock interview with representatives from real employers, making this a can’t-miss opportunity to simulate a real interview. To register, log in to BuckyNet and search “100501” at the top of the page, or follow this link and log in as prompted.
If you can’t make it that day, we strongly encourage you to schedule one with one of our advisors at any time! Before any interview, mock or otherwise, we also recommend checking out our comprehensive Guide To Interviewing, and make sure to explore the L&S Career Services website for even more helpful information for every part of your career path.