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As anyone who’s ever searched for a job will know, if you want to succeed, you need to know how to prepare for an interview.
Alongside researching the company thoroughly, the most effective thing you can do to prepare is practise, practise, practise.
The more you’ve practised, the more comfortable and confident you’ll feel. And one of the best ways to practise is to set up and conduct a mock interview.
Here’s how to prepare for an interview by doing a mock, in six easy steps.
Is there a part of the interview process that makes you feel particularly nervous? Maybe you trip up over the ‘biggest weakness’ question, or get awkward when it comes to asking the interviewer questions of your own.
Spend a bit of time thinking about this, and deciding which areas you’d like to improve most.
Come up with a couple of goals that you want to achieve through the mock interview process. For example, you might decide you want to perfect a smooth and streamlined answer to the question, ‘why do you want this job?’
Make a list of questions, starting with ‘tell me a bit about yourself’ and ending with ‘are there any questions you’d like to ask?’ Six to eight questions should be about right - although the more questions you practise, the better!
Choose a mixture of common interview questions and questions tailored to the job description. For example, if the person specification calls for ‘the ability to work well as part of a team’, you might include, ‘tell me about a time you worked as part of a team to solve a problem’. More tips on competency-based interviews.
If there are questions you’ve particularly struggled with in past interviews, make sure to include those too.
The best way to do a mock interview is with a real life partner. It’s important to choose someone you trust, and whose opinion you’ll respect - even if their feedback is difficult to hear!
This might be a friend, former colleague, mentor or relative. If they have experience of interviewing people, even better.
Don’t worry if you don’t have anyone to practice with - you can be your own interviewer with the magic of video recording.
It can be tough watching yourself on camera, but it’s worth powering through the cringes as it can be a brilliant way to review your interview technique.
Next, decide how you’ll conduct your interview. Meeting in person is best, but if you can’t, talking on the phone or on Skype is effective practice too.
If meeting in person, try to treat the mock like a real interview from start to finish. Act like your partner is the hiring manager as soon as you walk in the door.
Try to stay ‘in character’ the whole way through - no matter how tempting it is to start a question over again.
If you’re interviewing yourself, use a video camera, webcam or your phone camera to record yourself asking the questions.
Then play the video back to yourself on a computer, and video yourself answering the questions so that you can analyse them afterwards.
It’s a good idea to video yourself answering the questions even if you do have a partner, as this a valuable way to assess your technique.
If you did your mock interview with a partner, ask them to give you honest, constructive feedback, and take notes.
Talk about the impression you gave, your body language and any alternative answers or phrasing you could have used.
If you recorded yourself on video, leave it a while before watching it back. When you do, watch each of your responses individually and answer the following questions:
Next, watch the interview back in one go from beginning to end and give yourself an overall rating. Try to pick out three things to focus on improving.
If possible, ask your partner to repeat the mock interview a few days later when you’ve had a chance to respond to the feedback and work on your technique.
If you’re interviewing yourself, repeat the process as many times as you can before the real thing.
If you want to know how to prepare for an interview, you can’t get much better than a mock-up of the real thing. It’s an effective way to hone your skills, build your confidence and sharpen your technique.
But first of all, you’ve got to get yourself an interview - and the best way to do that is with a professionally written, tailor-made CV.
Got to give a presentation? Read our advice on preparing for an interview presentation.