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.