A Mock Job Interview Exercise

I know! I know! Yes, you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews, so why on earth would you find a mock interview helpful? The answer of course is that you and just about everyone else dreads job interviews so it’s likely the case you’re not doing any mock interviews to improve your actual performance when the real thing comes up.

If you’re an Employment Coach/Counsellor and you prepare people for job interviews as part of your role, you know the value in taking all the information you’ve provided to those you’re helping and giving them an interview to show those same skills. This practice interview if it goes well can boost the confidence one has that they can replicate this in future situations, and if it doesn’t go perfectly, you can both find what needs improving and feel good about what aspects did go as planned. In other words, reinforce the good and work on improving areas that need it.

Now for three weeks I’ve been working with a dozen people in a classroom setting. We’ve been specifically addressing issues related to job searching, and both yesterday and today, it all culminates with the big mock interview. This much they knew on day one. What they didn’t know until yesterday was how that mock interview would be conducted. They believed it was going to be a one on one experience; just them and me, isolated in some office away from the other 11 participants.

As it happens, I had a different method in mind. I set up a table in the classroom with three chairs on one side and a single chair on the other. When it was someone’s turn, I had them get up and leave the room, then selected two of their classmates to sit on either side of me one the one side. We three would act as a panel; something many find a little more intimidating. This intimidation wasn’t what I was going for mind, in fact neither person on either side of me was to ask any questions, take notes or even give feedback. They were simply there to create the panel effect. Given that we’ve all been together for three weeks and it’s a supportive group, that intimidation factor was not what you’d otherwise expect with strangers.

I then had a fourth classmate act as the Receptionist, who would go out, welcome the person and bring them in to the panel. After greeting the panel, they’d sit down, set up their material in front of them and away we’d go!

Now had I told the group on day one that it would be a panel interview, that anxiety would have built up over time – even if I’d told them the day before, it would have increased unnecessarily. Why would I want to create extra stress and anxiety over something I want to go well? And go well they have so far.

The other advantage of doing this mock interview in front of their classmates is that those outside the panel and sitting around the room found that by listening to the feedback I was giving each person at the end of their mock interview, they corrected things themselves when it was their turn. I heard people changing, “If you hire me” to “when you hire me.” I also heard them change, “I like what you guys do here” to ” I’m impressed with your organization.” Polishing…

Now the mock interview is a positive experience which works because we’ve had three weeks together to go over expected behaviour, structuring the answers, anticipating the right questions likely to be asked and how to present yourself to your best advantage.

Some of my classmates are Canadian-born and have gone through Canadian interviews all their lives. Others are relatively newcomers, and while they’ve all had job interviews in the past, these people have yet to experience what a Canadian job interview might look like. This mock interview for them, is extremely useful and comforting. After all, get through a mock interview and you’ll feel more confident if you have one in the future.

Today the other six participants have their shot at the mock interview. It’s not a long drawn out affair; a minimum number of questions. What’s significant is to have the experience. All are expected to come ready to answer the questions using the format shared, and all are expected to have a question or two ready to pose as the interview wraps up.

Now, while many were still nervous; and some have stated they are nervous about todays interviews, all of them pushed through the nerves and get on with it. There’s trust you see that I wouldn’t put them in a position to fail – and fail miserably – when I’ve demonstrated for three weeks that I’ve got their success foremost in our mutual best interest. That trust is essential for them and while they don’t know it, that’s the entire key to succeeding. They trust in me and what I’m sharing with them as being in their best interests, and I trust in them to take that same information and use it as best they can. Couldn’t be prouder of them as a group for how they’ve done. No one dropped out of class, attendance has been great, but even greater than the attendance has been the investment they’ve made while present.


Behavioural-Based Interviewing

. While many people know how job interviews have evolved over the years, there are still even more people who apparently don’t. I suspect the reason for this is actually for two reasons; 1) those who don’t like or do well at interviews don’t want to take the time to learn and practice, and 2) there are always young people coming along who haven’t been introduced to behavioural-based interviews.

Okay so here’s what I’m going to suggest. If you know someone who is out of work or about to enter the employment market put this piece in front of them and have them read it. You will have done them a great service, and while that doesn’t mean they will necessarily believe the advice here, at least they will have exposure to the most prevalent and successful way to get past an interview to the point of getting a job offer.

Behavioural-based interviewing works on the idea that the best way to predict your future behaviour is to look back at your past behaviour. In other words, how you handled situations in past jobs, volunteer positions and your personal experiences is likely similar to how you will handle similar situations when they come up again in your future. It follows then that employment interviewers have a number of questions that are designed to have you answer questions relating to your past behaviours. Such questions will ask you to describe a past situation, a time when you did such-and-such or to provide an example of how you handled some incident. As you describe your response or actions, the interviewer is noting this and the results you brought about as a way of predicting how you would perform for their company should they hire you.

Concrete examples from your past are what they are looking for, and you want to look back for such examples that relate closest to the questions they ask and that show you in a positive light. Gone are the days where you would be asked hypothetical questions such as, “What would you do if…” Anyone can rattle off what they would do knowing what the interviewer wants to hear, but not everyone has demonstrated desired behaviours in the past, and so these are usually more reliable in predicting future behaviour.

Pull out a job description – any job description will do, but if you have one for a job you are interested in that would be best. See all those key words, qualifications and desired skills? It’s likely you’ll be asked questions asking you to give specific examples from your past that demonstrate for the interviewer those same skills and qualifications. So in other words, if problem-solving skills are in the job posting, count on a question asking you to give the interviewer an example from your past where you were faced with a problem and what steps you took to solve it. A couple of things to remember here; the example you use has to have a positive end result and you have to be the one in the example bringing forth the resolution.

The most secure way to know you are answering the question fully is to use a structured format for all your answers, so you know when you’ve fully answered the question. The STAR interview format does this nicely. ‘S’ is for situation; you provide a mental image of the situation you found yourself in. Name the employer, painting a picture for the interviewer so they can visualize the setting. ‘T’ is for task; what had to be accomplished or overcome to reach a goal? ‘A’ is for action; what did you do yourself to remove a barrier to the goal, bring people onside or resolve a problem. Finally, ‘R’ stands for result; what positive outcome was realized because of your actions?

The important thing to remember is be specific in your answers and avoid generalizing and making broad sweeping statements. Stop saying things like, “I generally get along with everybody and don’t really have conflict” if you are asked to describe a time when you overcame conflict with a co-worker. Instead, tell the interviewer(s) about that time when you worked for APlus Haircutters and a customer wanted a colour and perm but didn’t have an appointment. You know, where your co-worker didn’t want to take the customer because it would interfere with their plans to leave in 30 minutes. You decided it was in the customers and stores best interests to take the client so you swapped out your two quick trims for the much longer perm and colour job and received a big tip in the process. Although your fellow hairstylist was seething at the big tip and you having taken her when she said no to the customer, she later agreed she had put her own plans ahead of the business and the customer and apologized

See how the example describes the situation, the task, your actions and a positive result? You come across as believable and credible, and the likelihood of you performing the same way in the future is greater. So go on then; highlight qualifications and desired traits in your job postings. Now come up with examples from your past that prove or demonstrate you have those same skills. Use the STAR interview format to structure your answers and prove you have the skills. Now, thank your friend for showing you this post.