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  1. Blog
  2. Interviewing

How to Stage a Mock Interview That Sets Everyone Up for Success

Expert tips for recruiters, coaches, and job seekers alike

Notebook, phone, and pen sitting on a desk
Photo courtesy of Dose Media

What is a mock interview?

A mock interview is a simulated or practice interview that affords job seekers the opportunity to sharpen their interviewing skills by formulating responses in real time, presenting how in-depth they’ve researched the organization and what problems they’ll potentially be solving in the role, asking relevant questions of the interviewer(s), and receiving actionable feedback on their verbal and non-verbal communication.

The most helpful and successful mock interviews are designed in similar fashion to mock trials (in which participants role play, test theories, and present arguments in accordance with applicable law) in that they should closely mirror and create an atmosphere that feels like a “real” interview.

The following tips can be used as a guide to achieve the real interview feel.

1. Prepare for the mock interview

Everything you do before a mock interview should match the steps you would take before an interview for a vacancy you hope to fill.

Use a position description/job posting

When it makes sense to do so, start with an actual job posting (current opening, previously filled, or job seeker submitted) or a sample/generic job posting from which you will develop interview questions. Doing so also gives the job seeker an opportunity to prepare, research, and formulate relevant questions. 

Read more: How to Write a Job Description for the First Time

Determine the appropriate interview format

Traditional, one-on-one mock interviews are most common, but depending on the industry, organization, and/or job type, panel or group interviews may be the format that’s most used and most effective for “real” interviews. Since you want to provide job seekers with an authentic feel, if there are enough resources and time available, it would be a great idea to expose the job seekers to two different formats so that they can gain a higher level of comfort.

Select experienced, qualified interviewers

Create interview slates that are representative of what real interviews will be like. For example, if doing mock panel interviews, ensure the relevant stakeholders are represented on the panel in number and in the respective role inside the organization. The makeup of the panel is important because senior leaders, hiring managers, team members, and/or HR/talent acquisition leaders are intended to serve different purposes and bring unique perspectives and questions.

Send an interview invitation

This will be especially helpful for early career job seekers and those who have been out of the job market for some time. The invitation not only locks in the date, time, and location of the interview but should also set expectations, provide the name(s) and title(s) of the interviewer(s), and also provides a mechanism to communicate any changes and serves as a paper trail to minimize conflicts.

Read more: 14 Tips for Skype Interview Success

2. Resist the urge to follow a script

Don’t get caught up on trying to create “ideal” situations, the goal should be to simulate “real” situations. Real interviews don’t require a word for word script in which leading questions are created to solicit prescriptive responses and neither should mock interviews. You also don’t want to inadvertently give the impression that job seekers should rely on memorization for interview success. 

Take them seriously

Again, this is not time to role play in an imaginary sort of way. It’s not a time to act out interview scenarios with the sole purpose of adding stress or creating unnecessary drama.

Set the atmosphere for success

Setting the tone of an interview is a priority in real interviews, and it is arguably even more important to do so for mock interviews. Because the job seeking participants are likely to be new to interviewing or have not interviewed in some time, framing the conversation so participants are able to relax and setting expectations for how the interview will flow at the onset will give them a greater sense of comfort.

Ask real questions

Job seekers who participate in mock interviews are doing so because they want to do well on their real interviews. They want to practice and establish a higher level of confidence and comfort in answering questions on the spot. It is imperative to ask specific and relevant questions that align with the prospective role, and level of the job seeker. 

Encourage the job seeker to ask questions 

Assume the job seeker is prepared and also taking the mock interview seriously. They have likely come armed with questions, so answer them in a manner that shows you have knowledge of both the subject matter and the organization (if applicable). If you don’t have the answer, respond in the same manner you would if you don’t have the answer during a regular interview and tell them you will get back to them. Acknowledge that the question was good and thoughtful, but not one that you were prepared to or qualified to answer.

4. Evaluate the interviews

Be mindful to take notes that address both the verbal and non-verbal communications that transpired during the interview. Provide actionable feedback on the spot so that it’s fresh and job seekers have meaningful takeaways to help them fine-tune and improve in the appropriate areas. Whenever possible, use a formal interview evaluation document as a guide. Using proven internal interview evaluation tools the same way you would for an actual interview gives participants a deeper understanding of the criteria by which they are being evaluated and why they were evaluated in a certain way. It is also a great practice to let them know, if based on the interview, you would or wouldn’t recommend they be moved to the next steps in the recruiting process.

Read more: The 6-Second Scan: What Recruiters Look for First on Your Resume

4. Take the opportunity to improve your interviewer skills

Just as there are job seekers who haven’t interviewed in some time, there are interviewers who don’t interview often and may want to strengthen their skills. Mock interviewers are excellent opportunities for even the most seasoned and frequent interviewers to improve. Solicit feedback from job seekers such as: things they think could have been handled better, questions that they didn’t understand, and/or ways that would have made the interview feel more like a two-way conversation and dialogue than a stressful interrogation.

Read more: How to Give Constructive Criticism to Anyone in the Office

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