One of the most often quoted platitudes regarding job interviews is to “Practice! Practice! Practice!” Great advice, but no one tells you how to practice. Practicing your interview skills involves improvisation, along with an ability to analyze your answers on the fly. Your memorization of the general ideas you would like to speak on will come as you practice what, in fact, to say.
Even with this free flow of ideas there will come a time in your practice routine when your answers will become monotonous because of how many times you have repeated them. You must move past THIS point of practice to delve further into the practice we are talking about.
Find a Mirror
One crucial aspect of job interview practice is sitting in front of a mirror while responding to questions. Notice the parts of your body that move while you talk. Do your facial expressions properly match the tone of the answer you are providing? In-between answers, are you smiling? You must practice managing your body whilst still knocking answers out of the park. Managing your body now will play a huge role in how you later manage some social aspects of the job interview.
Use YOUR Memory
Everyone I run across seems to have their own little trick of memory. Your own personal memory tricks will become invaluable during the interview. I find it most helpful to memorize story outlines or general topics rather than specific words. So if an interviewer asks me , ‘Tell me about yourself’ I don’t have to memorize a speech; rather, during my practice I’ve arranged an outline of my past jobs and what they’ve involved as it relates to the jobs I would be interviewing for. That outline will involve summaries of the company, my past position titles, and other key points related to the job. In my head, I can check those items off as I go. I’ve also practiced this very improvisational scenario. No script – just describe what you’ve been doing with your life the past 5-10 years. The process of practicing these types of scenarios will help you to hone down what you’ll say in an actual interview, and help you to find better ways of describing your past work experience.
Practicing With a Behavioral Question
For example, many companies will ask you some variation of a behavioral question. Behavioral questions revolve around a work scenario you’ve encountered, what you did, and what the resolution was. The answers to these questions involve telling a story and going into some depth. And while it’s certainly not impossible to memorize a two or three minute story, you set yourself up for embarrassing follow-ups you may not have prepared for if you’ve simply memorized a story.
It becomes crucial with behavioral questions to instead have an outline of the main points you want to include in an answer if asked. You should practice your delivery of 3 to 4 stories as you won’t be able to account for the interviewer skewing the question positive or negative. Be prepared by picking different types of stories – how you helped, how you used a specific skill, how you overcame an obstacle. Work on a spectrum of questions during your practice so that you will be prepared.
Getting better at practicing for your interview will take time, just as getting better at anything does. The most important part of your practice is to not get discouraged. It’s not everyday that we work on answering interview questions so don’t worry if you stumble a few times. The more you work through your answers during practice, the more prepared you will be for your job interview.