A lot is written about how to interview well. Most of the advice includes the benefit of practice. But do you know the best way to practice? You do not want the practice to turn into canned, impersonal responses. You do not want to practice only specific questions so that you can’t deal with a question you didn’t expect. You don’t want to practice bad habits. Instead, here are 3 tips for productive interview practice:
Practice the process. Dress up for your practice interview. Set the environment to match where you might be. Match the practice as close to the reality as possible. In my mock interviews with clients, we open the session in interview mode. No warm up coaching. We just start. The small talk we do is in the style of what would happen in the real interview. That’s the way interviews are, and that’s the way they need to be practiced.
Practice phone interviews. All of my clients practice phone interviews, not just live. You need to handle phone interviews differently than live interviews. The atmosphere is different – there is a danger of being too informal as you are typically in a more comfortable space. The medium is different – energy doesn’t travel well over the phone. The conversation is harder – you lose the visual cues so you have to listen more carefully in order to engage your interviewer. If my clients are up to it, we tape the interview – no way to argue with their own voice saying those jumbled, hesitant, off-target responses.
Practice with someone who can actually help you. One client gave me an interview response he learned from a family member that had me burst out laughing. Turns out, as I expected, this person hadn’t been on the market for a decade, which explained the out-of-touch response. Before you take advice, think about where it’s coming from. If it’s a jobseeker, are they successful and do they work where you want to work? If it’s a recruiter, what is their agenda and why are they being so candid? (When I recruited I never gave candid feedback for liability reasons,) If it’s a coach, are they psychoanalyzing you or do they know what it takes to get someone hired? You want to get credible advice that you can actually use. You don’t want to practice bad (or laughable) interview technique.