What is it? Practice.
You need to practice interview, or mock interview, before your actual interview. But most candidates skip this step and just wing it.
Think about the last time you went to karaoke. You can always spot the person who is singing the song for the first time, right? Or maybe it’s even you. No practice, you’re just trying to do your best with the song you know, but have never performed live.
That’s what you look like in the interview for the first time. Like a first time karaoke singer. You might be singing your heart out, but you’re slightly off tempo and slightly off key. You may know the lyrics by heart, but you’ve never practiced them into a microphone. Your timing is off, you sing too loud in parts, too soft in other parts. It’s a struggle to get through the song. Next time will be easier.
Same thing with interviewing. Just reading the questions and thinking through your answers is not enough. You need to actually practice before the interview. That is where the mock interview comes into play.
There are two ways to conduct a mock interview: professionally and privately.
A professional mock interview can be set up by the Career Services office at many colleges and universities. Some colleges will have alumni come in to conduct the interviews. Cameras are set up so that the candidate can see how they responded to the interview questions. It’s like hearing your recorded voice for the first time. Your actual voice doesn’t sound at all like you thought it does when “listening” internally. You can and will cringe when you see how you might have looked in the eyes of the interviewer.
But what if you don’t have the opportunity to do a professional mock interview? You can still do one privately. All you need is a mobile phone and someone to read you the questions. There is an extensive list of tough interview questions at CollegeGrad.com, so the other person will have plenty from which to choose. Just set up your mobile phone in the best location to video record your responses from the perspective of the “interviewer.” Don’t look at the phone/camera, look at the interviewer. And just let it roll until you have accumulated at least 30 minutes of material, which should be at least 6-10 questions and answers.
The key input back to you is the video review after the mock interview. It is only by watching your mistakes and correcting them that you can keep them from happening in the first place in front of the employer. Ideally, make your adjustments and then perform a second mock interview. Watching the video review after the second mock interview, you will likely be pleasantly surprised how much you improved since the first mock interview. The good news is that it keeps getting better the more you practice.
Now think about what would have happened if that first mock interview had been your actual interview. Luckily for you, the mistakes you made are shared with you alone. You can press the delete button.
So get your mistakes out of the way when no one is watching but you. That way, your best you will be on display when it is time for the actual interview.
One last note: don’t wait until you have an interview lined up to do your mock interviewing. It can often be difficult to schedule, so get it on the calendar well in advance of any potential or actual employer interviews. And, in a pinch, don’t be afraid to ask a family member or friend to play the role of the interviewer. Just have that person use the list of questions from CollegeGrad.com.