Mock interviews

“What’s the best way to organise and run a mock interview practice session and who should I do this with? Do I need to pay a trainer or consultant to help me?”

This was raised by Anna H during an out-placement training session and the answer may be quite encouraging for everyone. The prospect of an upcoming interview can be daunting if you haven’t been to any other interviews for a while. It definitely is a case of practice makes perfect.

You definitely do not need to pay a trainer, you can organise interview practice for yourself, but there are pros and cons either way. A trainer will offer a more incisive and objective view and may be able to diagnose problems that you’re unaware of. However, they can be expensive and that will limit the number of times you can run a mock interview. The more often you practice, the better you'll become.

An alternative is to find a friend willing to help. Plan to spend thirty minutes, twenty being interviewed and ten reviewing your performance with your friend.

The key is to prepare well beforehand.

  • Research the organisation.
  • Identify the key requirements of the role.
  • Use both to draw up a list of questions.
  • Rehearse your ideal answers to yourself.
  • On the list, leave space for your friend to take notes.

Give your friend the list, sit them at a desk with the questions and leave the room. Wait thirty seconds, knock, enter and begin the interview. You will find the situation slightly unnatural and stressful, but then that’s the point. To get the best from the exercise, do the following.

  • Make sure you’ll be undisturbed for the half hour.
  • Ideally, both dress more smartly for the occasion.
  • Stay in character throughout. If either of you get the giggles, just keep going.
  • If you dry up or make a mess of an answer, do not stop and don’t rewind. Recover and push on through, just as you would have to in a real interview.
  • The interviewer should make notes on the good and bad parts of your answers. They can note a mark out of ten for each, if it helps.
  • Don’t take feedback personally, use the negatives to show you where you need to improve for next time.

When you’ve finished, and reviewed your performance and opportunities for improvement, run the exercise again. Ideally, include a few new questions in there. The more often you run this exercise, the more prepared you’ll be when you face the real thing.

There are a couple of further things to try.

  • Try videoing one or more sessions to see what you look like.
  • Try swapping roles with your friend to see how it feels to sit on the other side of the fence.