The practice interview

by | March 10, 2009

Artists apprentice themselves to masters, professional sports teams play scrimmages and actors conduct dress rehearsals. Practice creates (hopefully good) habits, makes movements instinctual, converts decisions into instant reactions. With something potentially life-changing as an interview, leave as little as possible to chance by conducting one or more practice interviews. Certainly, you can’t write a script for your interviewer (wouldn’t it be great if you could?) but you can prep for an interview much in the same way that you would study for a test.

Think of the practice interview as a dress rehearsal, as close a facsimile to the real thing as possible. An interview is typically a few shades more formal than ordinary interaction. You should make your practice interview reflect this formality. If you’re going to wear a suit for the real interview, you should wear a suit for the practice as well. If you’re going to wear velvet knickers, an orange wig, a rhinestone blazer, and oversized pea green sunglasses, wear these for the practice. Arrange to meet your mock interviewer in a neutral space, preferably an office setting, ata specific time. Whoever is playing your interviewer should remain in character for the entire interview no matter how tempting it might be to crack a joke or ask a goofy question. (Many universities offer mock interview sessions to students and alumni, and some professional clubs will do them as well.)

Immediately following the mock interview, discuss your performance. (At some mock interviews, the conversation is taped and replayed, which can be helpful.) Begin with physical observations and work in to the substance of your answers. You might be amazed at what an objective observer will notice about you – things you never realized you were doing, such as raking your fingernails over your pant legs, playing with your earlobe or continually shaking the hair out of your face when it’s not there to begin with. And remember, these quirks often grow more intense with nervousness. In general, remember to keep your hands below your shoulders during an interview. Scratching your neck, playingwith your hair – all distracting little tics you should control.

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The practice interview is also a good place to monitor and adjust the volume and speed of your speech. You don’t want to have to repeat yourself or to have the interviewer cover his or her ears when the full force of your nerves gets behind your voice and you blurt out those answers at a volume that frightens even you.

Filed Under: Interviewing


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