Imagine that the job you want is an object, just sitting there across the room. What stands between you and that object is a poorly placed bed of hot coals – the job interview. While job interviews are a source of stress for many employment seekers, you can do much to reduce the degree of pain you will suffer as you move through it. By practicing your interview questions before your big sit-down with your would-be boss, you can condition yourself to perform at your peak – just as that seasoned fire-walker.
Oh, how much easier life would be if the interviewer gave you the list of questions in advance. While this almost universally never happens, you don’t have to allow your lack of question knowledge to leave you floundering come interview day. Instead, create your own list of queries. Spend a little time doing your homework, researching the company and the industry as a whole. Write a list of 10 to 20 questions that you feel you may logically face. Use this list as your study guide. While your list may not be as perfect as you would have wished, it is quite likely that you will face at least some similar questions come interview day.
Instead of just looking at the list of questions you prepared and allowing the enormity of it to overwhelm you, break it down, studying one question at a time. Using index cards, create talking points cards. Write each question on the top of a separate card. Fill the rest of each card with specific things you want to say in response to that question. For example, if preparing for a teaching interview and you have a card containing a question about how you will know if you are challenging students, jot down the term “zone of proximal development” as this is a relevant industry term that you may be able to use impressively in your actual interview. Review these carefully prepared cards as you wait for your interview to start, getting in some last-minute cramming.
Yes, you will feel like a loser, but to get the most out of practice, you must answer aloud. Get over your drive to look cool, step in front of the mirror and move through your questions orally. Make eye contact with your reflection in the same way you will make eye contact with your interviewer. Watch your body language as you answer, trying to keep your shoulders back and your look appropriately approachable. If you notice that you have slumped down or adopted a scowl, correct yourself. The more you practice this appropriate interview-appearance the easier it will be for you to adopt come interview time.
For interview question practice that is a true-as-you-can-manage replica of the actual interview you will face, enlist the help of a friend of family member. Provide the volunteer interviewer with a list of questions, or, for an even more accurate representation of what you can expect, ask her to create her own list of queries so you aren’t aware of what will be asked. Sit down with this faux-interviewer in a setting that is as close to the real thing as you can manage, such as the kitchen table or a home office. Move through the questions, answering each in the same professional and polished tone you hope to adopt come real interview time. If you want the ultimate in interview practice, slip into the clothing you will wear to the real interview to make it a true dress rehearsal. After your practice interview session, ask the person who interviewed you to provide you feedback, telling you what you did well and what you did not so well. Keep this feedback in mind and try to avoid these missteps when you actually do interview.
Erin Schreiner is a freelance writer and teacher who holds a bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University. She has been actively freelancing since 2008. Schreiner previously worked for a London-based freelance firm. Her work appears on eHow, Trails.com and RedEnvelope. She currently teaches writing to middle school students in Ohio and works on her writing craft regularly.