We begin a job search with a well written interview, networking with your circle of friends and friends of friends, putting together a list of quality references, and attempting to schedule some interviews with some target companies. Some people are really good at talking to people in general, and conducting a good interview. Some people aren’t very good a talking to people, and are terrible at interviews. Poor planning and a lack of practice can make that interview even worse.
Instead of relying solely on your professional skills, you should rehearse for your next job interview. Get a friend or family member to pretend to be the person conducting the interview, and have them play the part of asking you a series of interview questions.
Not sure how to go about doing so? Start by enlisting a family member, friend or partner to play the role of interviewer, and ask that she stay in character from start to finish. Set up a space, such as a desk or table, where you can create a suitable setting. Then use these 10 tips to from corporate trainer Marlene Caroselli to make your interviews — both mock and real — successful.
Do some basic research about the company you are trying to get a job with, and the people that work at that company. Find the history, recent acquisitions, recent management changes, investor news, product changes, analysis reports, etc. Mot of this information is easily found on the internet by searching the target companies internet site, looking at news and financial stories, looking at all existing job postings, and looking at information on sites like Glassdoor.com.
Think about what people see when they look at you and what they hear when they talk to you. Do you look interested in the position you are interviewing for, and appear professional, engaging, and do you say things people want to listen to then you speak? Use a video recorder (laptop webcam, cellphone, video camera, etc.) and record yourself answering sample interview questions. Do you maintain a professional attitude? Are you focused on answering the questions while having a friendly demeanor? While you can’t change who you are, you can change how to look to other people by acting the part for a few hours during the interview process.
3. Stay on message
While the target company is looking to hire someone with the skills for the posted position, they are also looking for someone that fits well into the team and company culture. Maybe they are also looking for someone who is interesting, friendly, polite, and maybe a little different. The interview is all about stating your professional qualifications, but also gives the interviewer a chance to get to know a little about you by having a brief conversation. Don’t waste that brief moment of connection by stating the obvious, but also discuss what might not be so obvious about you and your life experiences.
4. Don’t be in a box
Try an exercise in visualization. Imaging the person you want to be, with the job you wish you had. What will it take to get to that life? See the interview as a step toward that life, and position your thinking to believe you can make those dreams come true. If you can’t believe it can happen, it won’t come true.
5. Practice your lines
We all know that movies and television shows are written and rehearsed. Actors have lines and they practice those lines until they come out as natural statements that are believable and sound true to their character. You should have a few lines that you have memorized. These lines should be practiced and true to who you are, and are targeted at telling your story in a believable way. Maybe it is a story about a funny event that happened to you at work that will be handy when the interviewer asks you about your previous job experience. Instead of a 10 minute rambling story about technical details or procedures, it is a funny story about how your boss crashed the departmental server with a spilled can of soda and how you both worked on recovering the server overnight to keep anyone from finding out how the server crashed. Maybe that same story ends with him thanking you with a warm handshake and both becoming great friends.
6. Be Memorable
When the interviewer asks for you tell them a little about yourself, you should have a brief (5-10 minute) story that summarizes your story. If you have never had a “real” job, this story will focus on your education, volunteer work, etc. If this is your tenth job, this story will summarize your work history, hitting the high points that might include company names, positions, big projects or accomplishments, and specific events. Don’t be surprised by this type of question and have a rehearsed version of your life story that is accurate, interesting, and relevant to the interviewer.
7. Ask Yourself Tough Questions
When you are practicing your interview, make sure you are asking yourself tough questions. Have your friend or family members ask you very difficult questions about your work experience, gaps in your employment, lack of training, etc. If they ask you tough questions you will be forced to really think about your answers, and validate all of your life experiences to justify your qualifications for this new position. If you can make it though that process and still feel good about the interview, what is the worse thing that can happen? What question can they throw at you during the real interview that you haven’t already asked yourself? This will help you feel more confident before the interview, and help you project that confidence during the actual interview.
If possible, take notes during the actual interview. Write down the questions you are asked and even the answers you provided. What follow-up questions were you asked? This information might be helpful for any follow-up interviews, but also helpful at interviews at other companies. If the interviewer has some doubts about your ability to perform one or two aspects of the target job, other companies might have the same doubts. Use this information as feedback to improve your next interview rehearsal with your friends and family.
8. Body Language
When you are practicing your interview with your friends or family, review the video for more than a transcript of your responses. You have to pay attention to your body language as part of the package. Focus on your body posture, facial expressions, the movement of your hands, the way you look at everyone while you answer the question from just one person, and other basic presentation techniques. Do you have any nervous ticks like clearing your throat, tapping your foot, touching your face, or other things that might be distracting?
When you are playing back the video of your rehearsals, close your eyes and just listen to the audio. Do you sound like someone to knows what they are talking about, that sounds confident, and sounds honest? If you look at the research on why someone doesn’t get the position after a face-to-face interview, you will see answers like they didn’t sound believable, they didn’t seem confident, or they weren’t comfortable talking to the team. Maybe you aren’t confident. Maybe you aren’t comfortable telling your life story to a bunch of strangers. But like the rehearsal of your lines to make your words seem natural and believable, you have to practice the sounds to make them come out right all the time. Make sure you sound as confident as you look.
Work on being relaxed before your big interview. Being prepared helps you feel confident, and being confident will help you relax. While waiting for your turn in the interview room, don’t focus on reviewing your answers or checking your outfit in the bathroom mirror. Sit calmly and let your brain wonder to games or puzzles. When you are called to enter the interview, take a few deep breaths, put a smile on your face, and walk confidently into the future.
BONUS: Know when to say when
If you are in the middle of conducting an interview and things have gone really badly, know when to excuse yourself from the process and make a quick exit. I’m not suggesting that you give up and leave the interview because they asked you some tough or unexpected questions. I’m saying you should be prepared to call it quits if the interview turns out to be hopeless, for a different position than you were told, or if they ask you questions that you are uncomfortable in answering. Just tell them you are sorry but that you have run out of time and you must leave.