Job interviews can be the most intense, nerve-wracking part of any job application process. The interview room, where hiring managers test you with questions, is a crucible where even a single indecisive answer can lead to you being rejected in favor of a more confident candidate.
Mock interviews are a valuable training tool that can greatly improve your chances of landing your dream job–but a mock job interview activity can’t be thrown together willy-nilly. To help you truly master the arts of communication and personal presentation, we’ll review the following aspects of organizing and running mock interviews:
How mock interviews work
How mock interviews help
Who to approach for help with a mock interview
Preparing for a mock interview
Questions to ask during a mock interview
The purpose and function of mock interviews
As the title suggests, mock interviews are essentially simulations of future job interviews you’ll attend. One person, be they a hired stranger or a friend/associate, pretends to be a hiring manager and asks you a series of (likely curveball) interview questions. To begin, you answer those questions and then you ask some questions of your own, treating the conversation like a real job interview to the best of you abilities
As a general rule, mock interviews are most useful for job seekers in the following three situations:
Recent college graduate searching for their first job
Job seekers in a community where local jobs are scarce
Job seekers interested in an opening for a “dream job” position
If you’re in an area where job openings are plentiful or you aren’t particularly picky about the job you get, it may be better to employ the “learning by doing” method and practice your interpersonal skills in real job interviews.
If you adopt this approach, it’s important that you take copious notes during and after the interview. Record the signature questions hiring managers ask, write about the moments where you built good rapport, and record/learn from moments where you could have responded more gracefully.
How mock interviews help you with real interviews
Mock interviews, like most other kinds of rehearsals, are a great way to mitigate the effects of stage fright (particularly if you’re introverted or struggle with social anxiety). The more you practice interviewing with a mock hiring manager, the less unfamiliar and intimidating the interview process is. Mock interviews are also a good way to catch “blind spots” of yours in advance such as inappropriate answers, gaps in your work-related knowledge, misconceptions about the job you’re applying to, questions you’re not prepared to answer, etc. By getting your mistakes out of the way in advance during mock interviews, you can answer all the questions asked during the real interview in a confident, articulate way.
This pre-interview prep also gives you the mental energy to emotionally engage with and impress a company’s HR as you describe why you’re looking for a new job and what you can bring to the table.
According to the site GoRemotely, it takes between one and three interviews to snag a job offer, and about 30% of 2000 surveyed hiring managers said they made decisions on candidates in the first few minutes of an interview.
Reaching out to potential mock interviewers
When you’re searching for someone to be your mock interviewer, try to avoid reaching out to people you’re emotionally close to. The ideal mock job interviewer should be at least somewhat familiar with the kind of new career you’re seeking out. More importantly, they need to be able to give you honest feedback about your performance, even if it winds up feeling a little harsh.
Certain institutions such as career service centers or job placement agencies might offer mock interview services (for free, for a fee, or as part of a larger service package). Otherwise, you can try to set up a mock interview with a willing individual in your professional network or social circle.
- Career Coaches
- Career Counselors
- Work Colleague
- Close Friends
- Family Members
- Complete Strangers
What to set up before a mock interview
Once you’ve scheduled your mock interview, make the following preparations before showing up for it.
Prepare a list of questions you think the mock interviewer might ask. Write out clear, direct answers to each question ahead of time.
Dress in clean, professional interview attire i.e., business casual or more formal clothing that fits the job you’re seeking.
Shower, comb your hair, or otherwise do what you can to display excellent personal hygiene.
Show up early to your interview. (If your “online interview” is on Skype or Zoom, check your computer, video chat client, and internet connection to make sure everything is working before you log in.)
Bring a notebook or tablet for taking notes.
Questions that should be asked during a mock interview
When your mock interviewer carries out the mock interview, odds are good they’ll ask at least some of the questions in the list below.
Sample Mock Interview Questions
- How did you learn about this job opening?
- What drew you to this position?
- Can you tell me more about your educational background?
- Can you tell me more about past jobs that were similar to this position?
- What is one of your biggest strengths?
- What is one of your biggest weaknesses?
- Can you tell me about a major challenge in one of your past jobs and how you overcame it?
- Did you have any questions for me?
It’s also worth preparing your own questions to ask a company’s HR staff during an interview. Your mock interviewer can help you figure out whether said questions are clear or helpful.
In mock job interviews, job seekers pretend to go through the interview process with a person who pretends to be a company’s hiring manager.
Mock interviews help you mentally prepare for real job interviews and “get the mistakes out of your system” in advance.
The ideal mock interview is a work colleague or career services professional capable of giving you honest yet constructive feedback.
Prepare for a mock interview like you would a real interview: freshening up, showing up early, preparing answers ahead of time, etc.