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A mock interview (or practice interview) simulates an actual job interview by asking a career counselor, family member, peer, or colleague to pose as the interviewer. Mock interviews provide job seekers with the opportunity to practice answering common interview questions and receive feedback on their interviewing skills.
This article outlines the benefits and types of mock interviews, common interview questions you can use, and how to prepare for a mock interview.
The benefits of a mock interview
Mock interviews are the ideal way to practice for real interviews because they mimic companies' actual interview process. After each mock interview, you receive feedback from your interview, which provides many benefits:
- Improve performance in job interviews: Mock interviews allow you to practice various scenarios you'll encounter in job interviews and receive feedback on your response.
- Reduce stress: Job interviews are stressful. Preparation can reduce jitters and help you perform better during the real thing.
- Boost confidence: Each mock interview will improve your ability to answer common questions and increase your confidence.
- Receive critical feedback: Mock interviews with a career coach can help you gain crucial information before an actual interview, like what you're doing right (and wrong). You can use this feedback to improve your interviewing skills.
- Master your body language: Your body communicates as much as your words do. Mock interviews can help you dial in your body language, so you make a great impression.
Types of mock interviews
There are five types of mock interviews:
- In-person mock interview: You meet with a career coach, friend, relative, or colleague and give them a copy of your resume and a list of interview questions.
- Video mock interview: Uses video conferencing software to mimic a video interview. You should provide your interviewer with a digital copy of your resume and a list of interview questions.
- Phone mock interview: Mimics a screening call with a hiring manager or recruiter. Phone interviews typically ask you about your current job, background, and resume as the interviewer narrows the pool of applicants down for in-person interviews.
- Presentation mock interview: Preparing for presentations can help you feel more confident and capable if the interviewer asks you to present during the process.
- Technical mock interview: If you're applying for a software engineering, product management, or data science role, it's common to have a technical interview. Technical mock interviews help you get better at algorithmic and systems design problems.
Common interview questions to use in mock interviews
The questions asked during mock interviewers tend to be familiar as it's hard to determine the specific questions a hiring manager will ask during the interview.
Prepare for these common interview questions:
- Why do you want to work here?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- Why do you want to work remotely?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Tell me about yourself
- What makes you unique?
- What are your career goals?
- Describe your work ethic
- When can you start?
- What is your work style?
- How do you define success?
- Why are you the best person for the job?
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake
- What is your greatest weakness?
- What can you bring to the company?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why do you deserve this job?
- How do you handle stress?
- Why do you want to work from home?
- Why do you want this job?
- How would you describe yourself?
- Do you work well with others?
- What can you contribute to this company?
- What are your salary expectations?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- What motivates you?
- What is your greatest strength?
- How do you handle conflict?
Beyond these common interview questions, it's a good idea to leverage the research you do into the company and role to create tailored questions for the position. These questions generally break down into one of two types:
- Job-specific interview questions: If you're using mock interviews to prepare for your dream job, create a set of job-specific interview questions. Suppose you're applying for a back-end developer job. In that case, you should provide the interviewer with a series of algorithms and data structures problems you can use to prepare for technical interviews.
- Company-specific interview questions: If you're preparing to interview at a specific company, give your interviewer questions that they're known to ask. You can use Glassdoor.
How to prepare for a mock interview
Preparing for a mock interview is similar to preparing for a real job interview. Your goal is to highlight your strengths, make a good impression on the interviewer, and emphasize why your skills, background, and interests make you the ideal candidate.
1. Research the company
Learn as much as you can about the company. This research will help you create tailored answers, and a question set specific to the company. It'll also help you perform during the actual job interview.
Start with the company's website and look for:
- Mission statement: A summary of its values and aims to help you understand if your career goals and core values align with the company.
- Biographies: Information about their people, backgrounds, and education.
- About us page: Gives context on the company's culture, history, products, and services, which can inform your responses.
- Product pages: Helps you come across as passionate and knowledgeable in the interview.
- Customer testimonials: Bolsters your understanding of their customers and competitive landscape.
- Interviews: Gives insight into what the company cares about and its goals.
Beyond the company website, you can research companies on:
- Himalayas: A remote job board with in-depth company profiles on thousands of remote companies. Our company profiles outline what each company does, its tech stack, and employee benefits.
- AngelList: A tech & startup job board with thousands of company profiles.
- Crunchbase: Crunchbase is a platform for finding business information about private and public companies.
- Glassdoor: Glassdoor is a great place to find what current and former employees think about the company.
If you have a peer who works in the field, or ideally at the company, reach out. Peers can give you insight into what working at the company is like and other information you won't find online.
Once you've done your research, package it up into a nice one-pager that you can use to brief your interviewer.
2. Read the job description
After researching the company, read the job description for the role. The job post contains information about the position's duties, responsibilities, and purpose.
As you read, note any skills, abilities, responsibilities, or expectations where you have relevant experience. These are situations you can highlight in your mock interview to show you've done your research and why you're a great fit.
Be sure to give the job description to your mock interviewer alongside your research, as they'll use it to get an understanding of what a hiring manager would be assessing.
3. Learn to use the STAR method
Many common interview questions are behavioral interview questions that assess how you react to difficult situations and your skills.
It's best to prepare for behavioral interview questions by learning the STAR interview method. Answering behavioral interview questions with the STAR method ensures you communicate your value to interviewers.
STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result:
- Situation: Describe the situation you want to highlight.
- Task: Outline your goals or problems.
- Action: Describe the steps you took to solve the problems or achieve your goals.
- Result: Explain the impact of your actions and how you contributed to a significant achievement. Where possible, quantify your impact.
Remember, your interviewer will be looking for you to highlight relevant situations. If you're conducting mock interviews but haven't submitted your application, be sure to use the STAR method to structure your resume. Highlighting how your current job, credentials, and accomplishments align with the new position will help you stand out from other job seekers.
4. Prepare common interview questions
Now it's time to invest some time into preparing a set of questions to give your interviewer for the mock interview. Ideally, base these questions on what you think a hiring manager will ask you during a real interview.
Remember to give your interviewer an overview of the company and role you're applying to, so they can check whether your answers are relevant. If you're not sure how to do this, consider hiring a career counselor or finding a career center at a college or university.
You'll also need to prepare responses to these questions, as you'll be using those responses during your real interview. Treat the mock interview as an opportunity to hone your answers and interview skills to ensure you make a good impression on the hiring manager.
5. Choose the right interviewer
Your choice of a mock interviewer is important because you'll be relying on their feedback to improve. Ideally, you'll practice with someone who works in your field and has experience interviewing job candidates.
Many university and college career centers offer mock interviews, so if you're a current student or graduate, be sure to check in with your career office to see if they can help.
If you're not in a situation where you can leverage a professional career counselor, you can recruit a family member or friend to help you practice. While it may not be as beneficial, any training will help you feel more prepared and comfortable. Another option is to use sites like interviewing.io, Interviewbit, InterviewBuddy, or Pramp to prepare.
Once you've found your interviewer, give them a copy of your resume and a list of common, job-specific, and company-specific interview questions you'd like them to ask you.
You'll want to brief them on the company's dress code, what a good answer looks like, and any skills or qualities the hiring manager would want. The more effort you put into prepping your interviewer, the better their feedback will be on your performance.
If you can, conduct mock interviews with multiple people. Multiple mock interviews are the best way to mimic an actual interview process. For example, the first interviewer could conduct a phone screen, and the second could do a more in-depth interview.
Multiple mock interviews will also help you get different feedback.
6. Mimic the interview settings
Choose an environment that feels as close to the real interview as possible. That's the only way you'll get comfortable being in an interview setting.
If your interview is in person, consider using a meeting room or a place where you sit across from your interviewer with a table separating you. Don't forget to practice greeting the interviewer with a solid handshake and smile, just like you would during the real thing.
Likewise, if you're preparing for a phone or video interview, you should choose a place with good acoustics and natural lighting where you won't be disturbed. If you know what video conferencing software you'll use during the interview, use the same software to familiarize yourself.
Make sure to arrive five or ten minutes early and bring anything you plan to bring to a real interview, such as your resume, notebook, pen, and a bottle of water.
7. Think about how you present yourself
Dress like you would for the real interview. Ideally, you'll look into the company's dress code, but you'll be fine if you default to business casual.
However, presenting goes beyond how you look. Remember to practice using an appropriate tone of voice, cadence, and positive body language.
If you're doing a mock video interview, you'll need to think about your lighting, camera angle, background, audio quality, and Internet stability as well.
Choose a minimal background so the interviewer can focus on you.
For lighting, use a key light, natural light, or lamp that bounces light off a wall in front of you. You'll also want to think about your video composition.
A good rule of thumb is to have your eyes at the two-thirds level of the image. An easy way to do this is to have your camera just above your eyes angeled slightly down. Proper composition is another way to control your interviewer's focus and ensure that you're presenting well. It'll also make it easier to maintain eye contact on video.
Speaking of eye contact, remember to look into the camera rather than your screen when speaking and listening; otherwise, you'll look like you're staring into space.
Most people overlook audio, but it plays a massive part in how well you present. Use earphones or headphones to ensure your interviewer can hear you.
8. Ask questions
In most job interviews, your interviewer will ask, "Do you have any questions for me?" and we recommend that you follow this convention in mock interviews.
Asking questions in an interview is one of the best ways to come across as prepared and interested. Thoughtful questions will help you stand out from other candidates. If you need inspiration, we've put together a list of the best questions to ask in an interview.
9. Record the interview
While third-party feedback is essential, it's also helpful to record your interview to assess your performance. Watch or listen to the recording and note when you could improve your facial expressions, gestures, or posture.
Look out for your tone and cadence. We tend to speak faster when we are nervous. Inversely, speaking slower can help you come across as confident.
10. Incorporate feedback
After the mock interview, the interviewer should review your performance and provide feedback about what you did and didn't do well. Incorporate the feedback into future interviews, along with what you learned from studying the recording.
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