May be you’re a new entrant into the job market who is lacking experience in job interviewing. Or else you’re a job-market veteran whose resumes and cover letters yield loads of interviews — but you never seem to get the job offer. While these two groups may have the greatest need to polish interview skills, anyone actively interviewing for jobs can benefit from practicing interview skills. A research revealed that a candidate’s background and qualifications were far less influential in their hiring decisions than interview performance and professionalism.
Practice will help you reduce interview anxiety, improve your interview skills, and in many cases, gain important feedback about how you interview. It will also help you sharpen your communication skills — and poor communication skills were the number one turn-off for hiring managers, according to another Society of Human Resource Management survey.
Several ways to practice before a job interview:
- Mock interviews
- Videotaped mock interviews
Mock interviews simulate real job interviews and are conducted with a prospective job interviewee and an interviewer, often a career professional who can provide valuable input on your interview performance. The career pro will not only point out your shortcomings, but will acknowledge the areas in which you excelled, thus boosting your confidence. For the inexperienced interviewee, mock interviews provide an excellent picture of what to expect.
you are in competition with everyone else for the job. What will make you stand out? Yes, experience is important and helpful, but it isn’t everything. How well you show up in the interview is the other part. I’d rather hire someone with some experience or little experience who I can train that interviewed well as opposed to someone with years of experience that was unprepared. … You’ve been interviewed before so you know what they are going to ask. Have those answers mentally ready.
The point is, practice all of this at home. Have a friend or spouse ask you interviewing questions so you practice. Be confident. Any good interviewer can sniff weakness and timidity. Remember, interviewing is like anything else — practice makes perfect. For both of my careers since college, I’ve got the job on the first interview I went on. Why? Experience was only part of it. How I ‘showed up’ at the interview was the rest.”
While it can be helpful to conduct the interview in a venue where you won’t be interrupted, you may actually want your interviewer to create some interruptions to better simulate an actual interview. Take the mock interview seriously, and try to think of it as the real thing. Ask your interviewer to hit you with the trickiest and most difficult questions an employer might ask you.
Consider conducting mock interviews with a variety of people to get some different perspectives. Your friends may be more honest with you about any shortcomings they see in your interview performance.
Videotaped Mock Interviews
Mock interviews provide especially valuable preparation if you can have them videotaped. A videotaped mock interview that focuses on the non-verbal aspects of your performance — smile, enthusiasm, energy level, personality, confidence, voice, attire, posture, hand gestures, inappropriate body language — can be particularly worthwhile because many people exhibit behaviors while interviewing that they’re not even aware of.
At the same time your interviewer can identify your nervous habits which you may not be aware of. You can conduct a mock interview with a friend and have the friend point out only your nonverbals. Or videotape yourself and conduct one review of the tape in which you focus just on the nonverbals.
Some of the bad habits and inappropriate body language you should avoid are:
Um’s and uh’s
- Speaking too softly
Fading out at end of response
Touching face, mouth, scratching head
Tapping a pencil or pen
Stretching parts of the body
Using slang or profanity
Calling the interviewer by his or her first name (unless asked)
Touching things on theinterviewer’s desk
Twirling in chair
After a videotaped interview with a career professional, the pro will generally play the tape back so you can both watch and constructively review how you did. Yes, you may cringe at your blunders, but you will learn from them. After all, you may have little time in a real interview to make the right impression. Some HR professionals points out that the interview outcome is determined in the first 60 seconds. “What makes the lasting impression are the silent signals, the facial expressions, the cut of the suit, and the beauty of the speaker.
Observing yourself on tape will help you deal with vocal issues, such as a heavy accent, a baby-soft voice, failure to articulate clearly, speaking too quickly or too slowly, and talking through your nose.
An important key while reviewing the videotaped interview is to put yourself inside the employer’s head and note how you come across to the viewer. Are you conveying the demeanor and message you want to? As you watch the tape, note the length of your responses, which should be two to three minutes.
Interview rehearsal is so closely related to mock interviewing that mock interviewing could be considered a subset of rehearsal. But rehearsal also includes the concepts of verbally rehearsing solo for an interview, as well as mentally rehearsing and rehearsing in writing.
One technique is to rehearse these responses aloud by yourself, enabling you to hear how your answers sound and adjust your verbiage as needed. Recording these rehearsals and then listening to the recordings from the employer’s perspective can help the prospective interviewee refine and polish substandard responses. You can also try rehearsing in front of a mirror to check out your nonverbal mannerisms.