Tag Archives: mock interviews

4 keys to a successful mock interview

One of my clients told me recently that the mock interview I conducted with her was the best experience she’s had preparing for interviews to date. This was after a session where I reviewed her performance with constructive criticism, at times brutal honesty.

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I understood my client’s sentiment, because I also think a mock interview is extremely effective, if done correctly. I’ve conducted hundreds of mock interviews over the course of my tenure at the urban career center for which I work.

You don’t have to be a career advisor in order to conduct a mock interview. You can be a friend or relative. But to successfully conduct a mock interview, you must cover the following four components.

Keep the interview itself short

The length of the mock interview should be no longer than 45 minutes; you’ll want to give yourself time to play back the recorded interview. The playback gives the client and you the opportunity to address the strengths and weaknesses of her performance.

The goal of a mock interview is not to make it the length of a real interview. Where the real interview might be a marathon, the mock interview is akin to a sprint. It is intense and just long enough for the client to get the idea of how she performed. Additionally, the interview part itself can be exhausting if it is 90 minutes long.

The mock interview should be filmed and played back

If possible, you should should film the mock interview with a digital camera. The old saying the camera never lies is true. Not only is it important for your client to hear the content of her answers and the tone and inflection of her voice; she also needs to see her body language and other nuances.

Your client, and you, may forget the answers she gives. Filming the interview allows both of you to hear her answers again. You can comment on her answers intelligently and accurately. For example, “Your answer to this question asking why you left your most recent position is a bit too long,” you may comment. “And refrain from blaming your supervisor if possible.”

Seeing her body language can be even more important to your client than hearing her answers, particularly if her body language is extremely poor. One of my clients came across so stiff that he didn’t move his hands the whole time. His eye contact was extremely poor, as well. He recognized this because of seeing the recording and vowed to correct his body language and eye contact.

Usually I don’t have the time to get through the entire playback, but this is fine. I ask participants to bring a thumb drive with them so they can review their mock interview at a later date.

Clients must take the mock interview seriously

Be sure to make this clear before a few days of the mock interview. Tell your client that it will be treated as a legitimate interview. Setting this expectation will ensure that the atmosphere will be professional.

This begins with something as simple as dressing the part. I can tell when a client is serious about his mock interview by the way he dresses. If he comes dressed to the nines, this is a good sign. On the other hand, if he comes dressed in a tee-shirt and shorts, this is a turnoff.

The participant must also have done his research. For example, if you ask, “What can you tell me about this company, and why do you want to work here?” it is unacceptable for him to tell you he will know the answers in the “real interview.” No, he must see the mock interview as a “real interview.”

Your client must be an active participant. I will ask for my client’s input during the playback of the mock interview. This is his opportunity to comment on the content of his answers, as well as his body language. As the interviewer, you don’t want to give all the feedback. It’s important that the participant does some self-critique.

You must also take the mock interview seriously

This means being prepared. If I show up for a mock interview unprepared, it doesn’t go as well; and I sense that my client knows this. I might ask canned questions.

Before conducting a mock interview, ask your client to provide two documents, her résumé and a recent job description. From these you’ll write the questions for the interview. You don’t necessary have to stay on script; you might fall into a more conversational mode if the spirit drives you.

The questions must be challenging, without embarrassing your client. It’s also important to come across as friendly in order to put her at ease. On the other hand, if you know your client will encounter stress interviews, make the mock interview stressful. Generally speaking, the mock interview must build confidence, not demean your client.

At times you might experience resistance from your client. Hold your ground. She doesn’t need to agree with everything you say; and you might want to preface this at the beginning of the critique. Keep in mind that she will know more about her occupation, but you know more about the interview process. However, if you are unprepared, your authority goes out the window.


Mock interviews can be the most valuable job-search tool for a candidate. I encourage my clients to participate in them as much as possible. Many express discomfort at the idea of being asked questions, let alone being filmed. When you have the opportunity to conduct a mock interview with a client, don’t hesitate. You’ll be doing your client a great favor.

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10 ways that test your courage in the job search

Although I understand my workshop attendees’ reluctance to speak in front of their peers, I also think when given the opportunity, they should take it. They should, for example, deliver their elevator pitch without warning. “Tell me about yourself” is a directive they will most likely get in an interview.

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They should also not pass on answering interview questions I spring on them. Can they take the fifth during an interview? Hell no.

“Tell me about a time when you solved a problem at work,” I’ll ask. “I’d rather not,” they say. Okay, see how well that goes over at an interview.

Some of you might disagree with my insistence that they deliver their unrehearsed commercial or answering an interview question when they least expect it.

You might think it’s putting them on the spot, making them feel uncomfortable, testing their courage. Darn tooting it’s testing their courage. Despite what anyone says, the job search requires courage.

1. Being put on the spot in front of other job seekers by having to deliver your personal commercial or answer difficult interview questions on the spot, are some ways that test your courage. There are nine other difficult ways your courage will be tested in the job search:

2. Telling people you’re out of work. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but how can people help you if they don’t know you’re out of work? People tell me they’re embarrassed because they lost their job, even if the company was suffering and had to release employees.

I encourage them to let as many people as possible know they’re looking for a job, even if it means they’ll be embarrassed. It takes courage to do this, but it’s counterproductive to try to go it alone.

3. Attending organized networking events. You’ve read that “no one likes networking events.” This may be true for you, for others, for most. But networking events offer the opportunity to engage in conversation with other job seekers who are at these events to seek leads, as well as provide leads and advice to you.

4. Having others read your résumé or cover letter. Although you think you’ve written a great cover letter, you may be surprised by what others think about it. Like the time my wife told me she thought cover letter was “verbose.”

I’m not sure she used that word, but I got the picture that someone reading it would think it intimidating or laborious. Asking her to read my cover letter took courage and prompted me to edit it.

5. Participate in mock interviews. This may be the closest you’ll get to an actual interview. Mock interviews are a valuable teaching tool and any organization that offers them is providing a great service.

But they don’t have to be conducted by a professional job coach/advisor; a friend of yours can conduct them. Having a camera to record your answers and body language is a big plus. I remember being asked to participate in a mock interview years ago. I flatly refused. I lacked courage then.

6. Reaching out to your LinkedIn connections. Introverts may understand this act of courage more than their counterpart. Your LinkedIn connections are not bona fide connections until you reach out to them in a personal way, as in a phone call or meeting them for coffee.

Some of the connections I’ve reached out to have proven to be great networking partners, while others had little in common with me. Oh well. Doing this takes courage.

7. Approaching former supervisors for LinkedIn recommendations. My workshop attendees often ask me if they should reach out to their former supervisors for a recommendation. My answer is a resounding “Yes.”

This may take courage for some, but having recommendations on your LinkedIn profile is a must. What your supervisor feels about your performance weighs heavier than how you describe yourself. What’s the worst your supervisor could say? Yep, “No.”

8. Getting off the Internet. Not completely, but use it seldom and in different ways. Instead of defaulting to your comfort zone like Monster.com and other job boards, use LinkedIn to find relevant connections through its Companies feature, and visit your target companies’ websites to conduct research on the labor market.

Contact those companies with a networking email  to ask for networking meetings. This takes courage but will yield better results than using the job boards alone.

9. Speaking of networking meetings. Otherwise known as informational interviews, networking meetings have been the reason for many of my job seekers’ success in landing jobs. But they don’t come easy, as many people are busy, so it takes courage to ask for them.

Once you’ve secured a networking meeting, remember you’re the one asking questions about a position and the company, so make the questions intelligent ones. You’re not there asking for a job; you’re there to gather information and get advice.

10. Going to the interview. You’ve prepared for the interview by doing your research and practicing the tough interview questions, both traditional- and behavioral-based. You’re prepared, but still you don’t know what to expect.

How will the interviewers react to you? Will they ask you questions you’re not prepared for, ones you didn’t predict? Job interviews will require the most courage you can muster…even you veteran interviewees.


Readers, what I’ve described as courage may seem like logical  and comfortable job search activities. You may thrive on networking, feel comfortable showing others your résumé, and, above all else, attending interviews.

To you I say “touché. Many others may understand exactly what I’m talking about. To them I say embrace the challenges presented to you in the job search. Show courage. Show courage. Show courage.

Why preparation and practice do make perfect with interviewing; tips for success

Contribution from Dorothy Tannahill-Moran.

Recently, I conducted an interviewing workshop where I polled the group on how many times had they interviewed and how many times had they practiced interviewing.  Out of 16 people, only 2 had interviewed at all in the previous year; and none of them had practiced.  How can you expect to be any good at something if you don’t practice?  How can you be any good at something you only do once or twice a year?  Quick answer: You can’t be any good at interviewing if you don’t prepare and don’t practice.  It’s like expecting a toddler to walk well the first time – it’s just not going to happen.

This is like getting in shape for an athletic event; there are things you need to do and continue doing now and throughout your job search to be at the top of your game.

Interview preparation:

Create a list of interview questions. Obtain a list of most-asked interview questions. You can find them all over the internet. Or, at the next networking event you attend, ask people what questions they’ve been asked during interviews.

Write your response.  Sit down, think through your approach to the response and write down your response to each question.  Walk away from what you’ve done and come back later to reread what you’ve written.  You may discover you were brilliant, or that you need to refine your thoughts.

Read your responses out loud.  When we go through the process of writing and then reading what we’ve written out loud, it helps solidify the message in our brain.  It also helps us really hear whether or not what we’ve written sounds good.  Don’t memorize your responses or they will sound memorized when you do the interview.  Your brain will remember the main points of what you want to convey if you make the list of questions, write your response, and read your response out loud.

Repeat.  Refresh yourself on a regular basis, like weekly or minimally bi-monthly.  You want to read your answers out loud over and over again.

Practice:

Conduct mock interviews. Find other job seekers and friends who would be willing to spend a half hour interviewing you.  They can cook up their own questions or you can give them your list of questions.  Make sure to give them a copy of your resume so they have a basis for their questions.

Ask for feedback.  Find out if your answers sounded good and if you conveyed energy and interest.  Ask if you had any nervous habits that you need to eliminate or body language that doesn’t work well.  This will be one of the few times you might get some useful feedback throughout your entire job search process; so ask for it and do something with it to improve.

If you haven’t done these steps, you aren’t ready for an interview.  You might think well “on your feet,” but think of how much better you will be if you have prepared and practiced.  If you don’t think well on your feet, this is a critical activity you need to be scheduling right now.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a Career Coach and expert on helping her clients achieve their goals. Her programs cover: Career growth and enhancement, Career Change, Retirement Alternatives and Job Search Strategy. Want to discover specific career change strategies that get results? Discover how by claiming your FREE gift, Career Makeover Toolkit at:http://CareerMakeoverToolKitShouldIstayorShouldIGo.com