How to Practice Interview Skills with a FriendDec 27, 2021
When you are preparing for an interview, it’s always a good idea to practice with a friend. When I say “friend,” I am using the term loosely. It may be a personal friend, a family member, a significant other, a work colleague, a coach/teacher, or someone you might know at the company where you are interviewing.
Here are the steps you can take for effective interview practice with a friend:
Yup, that is not a typo. Sometimes a little bribe "offering" might be the extra push someone needs to help you. You want to work with someone who is engaged in the process, so you have to make them a nice offer. Make it worth their time and effort to practice with you. Offer something in exchange. Ask them if there is something you can help them with in return. If that isn’t appealing to them, bribe them with dinner, wine, coffee, etc. Most close friends and loved ones may not want anything in return, but it’s smart for you to proactively offer something to let them know how appreciative their time and efforts.
Item #2—Make it Easy!
Make it really easy on them. Simplify the process so it is not a burden for them. Make sure you are flexible based on their availability. Send them the calendar invite with a video meeting link. Send them a Google Doc with questions they can ask you. The goal here is to give them everything they need to prepare on their end, while also making sure that the key areas you want to cover are listed clearly. This will make for more effective practice.
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You have to set expectations upfront. You need to create “psychological safety” for your friend to be critical. You want them to be hard on you during practice. Unfortunately, that can be tough for some people because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. Let them know you appreciate them taking the time to help, and make it clear it’s okay for them to be hard on you. Assure them you won’t take it personally. Even though they are your “friend,” you are trying to recreate a realistic business interview situation and that won’t happen if they are being too soft and friendly.
Item #4—Physical Space
If you are conducting a practice video interview, you have to use this opportunity to dial in your physical space. This way, you are ready when the time comes to conduct a real interview. Your friend can help you know if you have clear sound and picture, so you aren’t dealing with these glitches when it really matters most. Here are a few issues to cover:
- Good Internet Connection
- Good Lighting & Sound
- Body Positioning
- Whiteboard Set Up
The last issue is tricky, but important. During a virtual interview, your interviewer may or may not allow you to use a whiteboard. You want to make sure that your set-up is perfect if you choose and are allowed to use it. Practice utilizing this set up with your friend. Good lighting and using dark markers are important. Test the sound when you are writing on the whiteboard so you aren’t cutting in and out if turning away from the webcam. Practice what you want to write and work on legibility with your friend, so the whiteboard presentation is as clean as possible during the actual video interview.
Item #5—Body Language
Practicing your interview body language is very important. From the moment you come on screen in a video interview (or walk into the room if practicing in person), you will want to look and act professional as if you were in the real interview situation. It’s easy to get loose and comfortable with a friendly face on the other side. You need to pretend as though it’s the real deal for the best possible practice. This means a professional introduction, maintaining good eye contact, and keeping your shoulders back and head up throughout the conversation.
Item #6—Pitch, Tone, Words
Your friend practice interview will also be an opportune time to practice your speaking pitch, tone and word choices. Again, remember to act professional. Your speech should be clear and your wording should be concise. Your pitch and tone should be confident and impactful. Think about things like volume and speaking pace as you work through your practice session.
Item #7—Personality Types
Ask your friend to play different characters during your practice sessions. They may want to approach the questions and reactions from different points of view to mimic real-life scenarios and personalities you may encounter during the interview process.
These are some of the key steps you can take when practicing interviews with a friend, loved one or professional colleague. It is a great process to go through as you work out what you want to say and how you want to say it. It will also help you to dial in your physical set up for a video interview so there are no problems when it counts.