Recently I helped a friend land the job she wanted, which is not a simple process, especially when you know what you want and don't want in your next role. Identifying a company with a position that will leverage your skills and offer stretch assignments can take months to uncover. While we were strategizing about her approach, I decided to blog about our process so others can gain insight on how to strategically use the mock interview. It's easy to play "answer some questions" with your friends and not take this tactic seriously, but if used correctly, the mock interview is your dress rehearsal before the big day.
If you are not sure where to start or how to use it, let's first define what the mock interview is strategic for:
- Judging the quality of your performance and responses to questions
- Identifying where you can improve
- Creating a plan to tie up the loose ends
- Setting the stage for what interviewers will experience
- Improving your confidence level through preparation and practice
Don't be deceived that a mock interview is just a one-time event where a few of your colleagues ask you job-related questions, and there is more that goes into it than you realize. Think about this; there are several candidates who are in the same process as you, at the same time, vying for the same position:
- How do you stand out?
- How do you communicate why YOU are the right selection for the role?
- How do you demonstrate your potential with this limited interaction you have with the recruiter, hiring manager, or interview panel?
The mock interview sets you up for the job you want by planning out every detail including the "thank you" note after the meeting. While it will take some effort to do this right, the pay off is making a great first impression and getting on the hiring manager's short list for the job you want.
There are a few resources you will need to create a successful mock interview:
- Colleagues who are experienced in recruiting or interviewing and committed to helping you through this process
- Companies you have identified as places where you want to work. If you have you applied, you may not have enough time to work this plan effectively. General Rule: Be prepared to get a call to interview the same day you apply (happened to me)
- Access to a connection at the hiring company or a network with leads who can introduce you to someone who works there
- Updated resume, social profiles, and work samples (if applicable)
- References who are intimately knowledgeable about you, your accomplishments, and your capabilities
Now that you have the basics - let's take a brief look at how you can prepare for a real interview.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
- Prepare a list of questions for your connections at the hiring company to gain insight into the culture, organizational structure, technology platforms, software tools being used, and any other information to help you effectively engage the interviewer
- Have a colleague schedule two mock interviews: a one-on-one and a panel interview
- Make sure you provide your colleagues with the job description so they can create challenging interview questions that align with the responsibilities
- Create a checklist of areas for your colleagues to observe and provide feedback: eye contact, nervousness, responses that didn't communicate your thoughts, etc.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
- Dress appropriately and show up just as you would for the real thing
- Bring copies of your resume and any pertinent information you plan to share
- Be prepared with any technology that you will use during the meeting
- Practice your introduction or elevator pitch
- Ask the questions you plan to ask at the interview to gauge the quality of your selections
- Make your exit as you would in the actual interview
AFTER THE INTERVIEW
- Send each of your colleagues a "thank you" note for the interview
- Have one colleague contact the others for a reference for you as well as check your social media accounts to provide unbiased feedback
- Schedule a debrief meeting with your colleagues to discuss your performance and where you can improve
- Use the feedback to make changes and plan for another mock interview
It's never too much effort for the role you want, and when you land the job, you can take your friends out to dinner and drinks, on you!
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