An Awkward Trick That Guarantees Your Job Interview Success

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Remember the first time you rode a bike? You awkwardly wobbled… and maybe even crashed and burned a few times. You threw the hunk of metal on the ground in frustration and swore you’d never touch that piece of junk again.

But then you saw how your friends made it look so effortless, tooling around the neighborhood and going further than your two feet could ever take you. The bitter taste of FOMO sparked something deep within you. So you picked it up, vowing that you weren’t going to let this inanimate object get the best of you. And after trying over and over again, you finally just got it. You didn’t have to concentrate on pedaling or steering or balancing. Everything just came naturally to you, and those early days of disaster began to fade from memory.

Riding a bike is a skill. It’s tough when you first start out, but the more you practice, the easier it gets.

A lot of us don’t realize that interviewing for a job is exactly the same. Most people are not naturally good at job interviews. But most people can get better at job interviews just by practicing them.

One way to practice is by actually going to a lot of job interviews, and not to depress you or anything, but you probably will have the chance to do that throughout your life. But another way to get practice and get feedback is by doing mock interviews with friends and family members. I’m not going to lie—this can feel super awkward at first. But it’s also one of THE BEST ways to prepare for a job interview.

Claire is a friend of mine who’s currently going through the job search and she’s a recent convert to the power of mock interviews. This is what she says about the experience, “I thought with my improv and theater background that I could nail each and every interview without practicing. But I soon realized that, like any performance, even the most talented actor needs rehearsal! Practicing clear, concise, and smart-sounding answers to mock interview questions with my friends made a huge difference. I went from feeling unconfident and stressed out in job interviews to relaxed, open-minded, and excited! The best part was, my friends were often tougher and more intimidating than the actual interviewer!”

Feel like you might like to get some mock interviews under your belt? Here are a few tips on how to go about it.

If you want to practice being interviewed

  • Find the right person and place

Begin by asking a few friends or family members if they’d be willing to help you out. You might find it useful to practice both phone and in-person interviews. It’s also a good idea to practice with different people since everyone has a different interview style. You’ll probably want to ask for about 30 minutes for a phone interview and an hour for an in-person interview. If possible, it’s a good idea to choose a place that’s quiet with minimal distractions, but you may need to entice your friend with a fancy coffee or craft beer, in which case meeting in a bar or coffee shop would be your best bet.

  • Provide all the necessary documents

In order to make it as useful/realistic as possible, you should give your mock interviewer a copy of your résumé (the one you used to apply for the job) as well as the job description for the role you’re interviewing for.

  • Ask for what you want!

You can also let your mock interviewer know what you’d like to practice—do you want to perfect your answer to one question (like “tell me about yourself”)? Or would you rather run through a full interview from beginning to end? Be upfront about this ahead of time. You want to make it as easy as possible for your mock interviewer! But at the same time, you want to let your mock interviewer do their thing. In a real interview, you may be thrown curveballs, so you have to accept the fact that you won’t always be able to give a perfect, scripted answer. Just roll with it and do your best to answer any question your interviewer throws your way.

If you want to help a friend practice their interview skills

Maybe you have a friend who’s got a big interview coming up or maybe they helped you out a while ago and now it’s time for you to repay the favor. Here are some tips to help you ensure you’re an awesome mock interviewer.

  • Acknowledge the awkwardness

If you’re into cosplay or games that require unusually shaped dice, then more power to you—role-playing probably comes naturally to you. But for the rest of us, it generally feels awkward and uncomfortable. It’s okay to acknowledge this before you get started. Make a silly comment or two, laugh a little, and then settle down. Someone asked you for help, and you agreed to do it.

  • Take it seriously

You’re not going to be super helpful if you just joke around or break character continuously. Try to act professional and ask realistic questions (more on those in a minute).

  • Get all the necessary info

If possible, ask your interviewee to send you their résumé and a job description ahead of time. If they don’t do that, take a moment before you start to look over everything. If your interviewee doesn’t have a specific job and just wants to do some general prep, make sure you get a copy of their résumé to help guide your conversation.

Common interview question cheat sheet

1) Tell me about yourself.

How to form your answer:

Remember to keep your answer polished and professional. Talk about yourself in the sense of your work experience and accomplishments. If you’ve just graduated or you’re still in school, you can talk about your major and some of your relevant classes, coursework, or side projects. If you feel compelled to talk about your family, high school, or hobbies, mention these briefly and then move on.

If you’ve recently moved or are switching careers, this could be a good opportunity to address these facts. It’s also a great chance to address things you know are red flags on your résumé. Not every interviewer will ask you to walk them through your résumé, so if this question comes up, take full advantage by addressing whatever you feel will be of concern or interest to your interviewer.  

This question comes up so often that it’s definitely worth practicing. And even if you don’t get asked it outright, you can take bits and pieces from it to answer other questions that come up.

2) Walk me through your résumé.

How to form your answer:

This is your opportunity to talk about your past experience and relate it to the job description for the role you’re applying for. You can also explain how some of your skills may not directly relate, but they could transfer to what would be expected of you at the company. For example, if the role you’re applying for requires you to present to managers and you’ve never done that before, you could talk about how some of your extracurricular activities relate. “I was a member of the marketing club and we worked on a group project that we presented to a local business. This experience helped me prepare for presenting in a professional setting.” Try to use some of the buzzwords from the company’s website and job description in your answers.

3) What interests you about this position/company?

How to form your answer:

If you’ve gotten to the interview stage, you’ve probably already done your research so you already know about the company’s work and culture. When an interviewer asks you this question, they are trying to determine how well you understand their organization and the role you’re applying for. “I think you’re a cool company” is not really going to cut it here. Try to give a specific example of a project or initiative that caught your attention and why that appeals to you, like “I like how you understand the specific challenges of searching for a job as a college student or recent grad and try to make it easier for this particular demographic to find opportunities. The Explore feature is so cool and I can’t wait to tell all my friends about it!” (That line would totally work if you were applying for a job at AfterCollege, BTW!) People love feeling good about the place where they work. Compliment the company, be sincere, and do your research.

4) Why did you leave/are you leaving your last job?

How to form your answer:

If you’re looking for your very first job after college, this question may not apply, but be prepared to answer it in future job interviews. The key here is to always focus on the positive. DO NOT, I repeat DO NOT say anything bad about your prior employer. Even if it was the absolute worst job in the history of all time, simply say that you’re looking for opportunities to grow and improve.

5) How does this position fit into your longer term career plan?

How to form your answer:

Before the interview, spend a little time thinking about your bigger career goals beyond just landing this one job. What are some things you hope to accomplish? These can be specific, like achieving a certain level of competence in a type of software that’s common in your industry, or general, like being able to represent your company externally at conferences. Your exact answer doesn’t matter too much and you don’t have to look too far in the future—the main thing is to show your interviewer that you’ve given this some thought and you are motivated and excited about your career and moving forward. One warning here: Don’t make your interviewer feel like you’re gunning for their job. Show how you want to add value to the organization and make their life easier while also building up your skills.

6) What skills do you have that you feel are applicable to this position? (or variations on this theme like “Tell me about your experience with X” or “Give me an example of a time that you’ve had to handle [task/responsibility],” or “I see on your résumé that you did X, tell me about that.”)

How to form your answer:

Basically, you should be prepared to give specific examples of all the things that are listed on your résumé and all the duties that are outlined in the job description. As much as possible, try to explain how the information on your résumé would translate into success on the job.

Don’t have experience with every single thing listed in the job description? Don’t panic! A lot of employers are only looking for people who fit about 70 or 80% of the criteria, because candidates who fulfill all the criteria are likely to get bored. As much as possible, try to give specific examples of experiences that you think are relevant/transferable, but if you really have no experience with something, don’t lie about it.

Homework time! Get over the awkwardness and schedule a mock interview. Just like riding a bike, it will get easier over time. Don’t forget to use our cheat sheet to help guide your conversation.

What do you think? Have you ever done a mock interview or helped a friend do one? What happened? Would you add any other advice to our list? Let us know in the comments section.

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One Response to “An Awkward Trick That Guarantees Your Job Interview Success”

  1. Jessica

    I work two part time jobs and have worked on of the jobs for 9 years. It’s very part time – 10 hours/week and has no possibility for full time. I want to keep it on the side when I have a full time job. I have always worked two jobs and it won’t change for when I have a FT position. I love the 10 hour/week job, but it’s also extra money for some goals. I’m always asked this in interviews and I falter. I don’t drive either.

    I always say in regards to that job, “I will be keeping it. It’s 10 hours/week and very flexible. It has no possibility for full time and I’m looking for full time experience in x. I applied for your company because…” I don’t get the job. I’m not sure if that, the fact I don’t drive, or the fact I’m an introvert and get EXTREMELY nervous before interviews. I had a few mocks and one of the mock interviews, I was told I should just lie about the 10 hour job and say I’m quitting. Someone else suggested that too. Advice?

    Reply

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