Mock Interviews, Preparation and Reflections

Last week I scheduled a mock interview through the SBA Career Resources Center. I wanted to get some practice in as I begin applying for internships and summer jobs. So a mock interview was a great way to practice my interview prep, interviewing skills, and get feedback—all completely risk free! Now I’d like to share some tips on getting ready for an interview—mock or real—and share some of the feedback from my experience that I found helpful.

Preparation

  • Update your resume – this is something you should always be doing, but make sure you’ve got a current version ready. And be sure to know what it says! You’ll be expected to articulate your experience in an interview, so you should know it and be able to talk about it smoothly.
  • Make notes on strengths, weaknesses, and sample BI question answers– having these things prepared on paper is a huge help and will help you anticipate questions and have a strong response. You can review my articles on identifying strengths and weaknesses on the blog. Also, check out the following websites for good examples of behavioral interview (BI) questions. Answer as many as you can, and have a story ready to tell.
  • Research the company/interviewer– don’t go into your interview empty handed. Know the basics about the company you’re applying with, the job you’re applying for, and even details about your interviewer if you can find them. This information will show you’ve done your homework and are serious about the opportunity. USe the following resources:
    • LinkedIn – information about employees and the company
    • Glassdoor – helpful in finding some information about employee feelings; also good for learning about how a company interviews
    • Google News – check for any recent news on the firm
    • Company website – perhaps the easiest of all … find the company’s about page and study it!
  • Look your best– appearance is the first impression you’ll make in any interview, so start off on the right foot, and be sure to dress the part.
    • Dress – clean, pressed business attire.  Look into company culture or find someone to ask about choice of clothing. Some cultures are more casual, so a full suit might be out of place. However, always air on the side of being overdressed.
    • Grooming – get a hair cut a few days ahead of time and don’t wear any strong fragrances or lotions
    • Don’t carry a lot of stuff – you’re not going to be setting up your desk just yet … I always have a notebook, pen, business card, and a copy of my resume. Leave excessive items like your phone, wallet, purse, etc. at home or in your car (just don’t leave your car key behind!).

Feedback

The professional who interviewed me took notes about how I was doing throughout our 20 minute conversation. After we finished she shared some advice with me on my own technique, and I think most of it is applicable to many other folks.

  • Vocal Pauses – while giving my responses, even though I had written them out and practiced, my interviewer pointed out that I had a lot of vocal pauses (saying “um” mostly), which could be distracting. She recommended that while practicing I record my answers and play them back to listen to when those stumbles come across. Jodi, from Career Services, also gave me some fun feedback — practice with a friend and have them listen only for vocal pauses, and clap or make some noise to alert you of when you use them
  • Smile! – my interviewer noted that when I talk I have a tendency to smile. She said this was a great way to connect with the person you’re speaking to, and seem more relaxed and “human.” So while practicing your answers, sit in front of a mirror and watch what you do with your face. If you look concerned or worried, try to relax and make the process fun for yourself.
  • Focus – another area the interviewer noted I did well was ignoring her note taking. The point is, when you interview the person asking the questions is going to make notes for themselves. This way they can refer back to answers or details that were beyond your resume and have a better idea of who you are as a candidate. Your job, however, is to ignore what they’re writing … don’t worry if it’s good or bad, just focus on talking to them and on being engaging.
For more information on participating in mock interviews, or to schedule time to meet with staff from SBA Career services, visit the Career Center website. For SBA graduate students, check out CareerForward for details on events, jobs, and other career development tips.

Ryan is a part of the Master of International Management full-time 2012 cohort, and a MIM Student Ambassador. Currently he works within the Willamette Valley wine industry as a social media consultant, and wants to broaden his career in marketing to a global level through the MIM program. His favorite aspects of MIM are networking with other students from around the world and learning Mandarin Chinese. Ryan is passionate about food, wine, and travel and writes on these topics for other sites. Visit Ryan’s site here.

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