Sometimes you think you know how you come across to others but you don’t. You may think you rock in your presentation skills, or present a cool and calm presence or think you are a superstar when it comes to nailing a job interview. When was the last time you went on a job interview and what was the outcome? I thought so! If you’ve been pounding the pavement and think you are just doing fine networking your butt off then think again. If no one has offered you a job or even given you a second look, chances are you are not the picture perfect job candidate you may think you are.
Maybe it’s time for a lesson or two on how to objectively see yourself as others see you. We all think we know ourselves and we may even play twenty questions in front of the mirror admiring ourselves along the way. But do you really know what others think about you when you have just interviewed for a job? Do you ever ask for feedback and get a nervous response or a noncommittal answer? Do you leave the interview not quite sure what the other person thought or, had the perception you nailed the interview only never to hear back from the recruiter again? It’s not uncommon for recruiters or hiring managers to dodge the proverbial bullet when offering up feedback particularly if your interview did not go as well as you expected. That doesn’t mean they are a bunch of liars it just means most people, under pressure, don’t necessarily respond with honesty and directness. That’s not a judgment on you or the other person necessarily, but it does place the burden on you to become more self-aware and really understand how you are coming across.
So what is a mock interview and how can it help you polish up your interviewing skills? A mock interview is just that, a fake, role-play exercise where you can practice how you present yourself in front of others. You can do this with another person as the interviewer, or you can do this in front of your laptop and record yourself before you go live in front of your next job interview. Here’s how to set up your mock interview:
1) Pick a comfortable setting like your living room, office, etc. (avoid the bedroom because you don’t want to look too comfortable).
2) Sit in a hard chair so that your back is straight and you have a good angle in front of the laptop, which you will place in front of you.
3) You will have already prepared or have asked someone else to prepare a list of 5-10 questions that you will answer in front of the camera.
4) Remember to wear something you would on an interview and prepare questions that you might be asked on an interview so that you are recreating as close to an actual interview you’ve experienced as possible.
5) If you can invite someone to ask you the questions off screen that’s fine, but you should begin the response to the question by incorporating part of the question in your answer. You can respond something like, “That’s a great question, how do I rate my overall job skills compared to my peers …” In this way, you can follow how you responded to each question when you go back to replay your interview.
6) Now the hard part, ask someone other than yourself to review the mock interview BEFORE you look at it. Choose someone you trust who will give you honest feedback. Write down, or have them write down the specific areas of feedback for each question you answered so you can have this to review when you view your recording.
7) Next, review your recording and have the list of feedback in front of you to go through when you critique each of your responses to the questions asked. The hardest part here is to try to look at yourself objectively.
8) When reviewing your mock interview, try not to focus on the details, if your hair was not in place or you were sitting slanted in the chair. For your first pass, focus on how well or not you verbally responded to the questions.
9) List out your own feedback, such as, did you hesitate often, did you use many “um’s” and “ah’s” when you answered the questions. View how quickly or slowly you spoke and focus on the timing of your responses.
10) Lastly, go back and critique your visual queues, appearance, posture, eye contact, any nervous habit you may not have noticed you had. Write down ALL of your observations so you have a complete list of how well you did and where you might need to improve.
When you complete your mock interview, create a Good/Not So Good list and put your feedback and that of the other person reviewing your recording down so you create a side-by-side comparison. You should wait a few days before you go back and look at your mock interview again with fresh eyes to see if you pick up anything else you may add to your list.
Now that you have an “objective” observation you can critique your interviewing skills and hone up on areas where you may not have performed as well as you once imagined. It’s not a bad idea to use this to practice on your responses and come up with another list of questions and repeat the same process again in a week to see how well you improved. Remember that you are the best judge of your how well you come across and represent yourself to others. Next time you go on an interview, you’ll know exactly how someone sees you and whether or not you really “nailed” it.
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