My Practice Interview Experience

Every interviewee wants to perform well in a job interview. They wish they could be confident and answer the interview questions perfectly. Unfortunately, most students are not born with an innate ability to interview well, but it is something that can be developed over time. I have a lot of experience hosting meetings and doing impromptu speeches, so in my imagination, I can give perfect answers as soon as the questions are delivered. When my peers ask for advice, I can tell them I didn’t do anything to prepare. I am just a talented person. But the skills necessary for interviewing can never be trained by dreaming that I learned my lessons in the practice job interview provided by the Center for Career Development.

I made an appointment with the Center for Career Development-practice interview to prepare for the internship I applied for during the summer break. I went there confidently, and I thought if this were an actual job interview, my performance would give me the invitation to my dream job. But after the practice, I knew the job interview was more challenging than I thought. I only did a little work to prepare for the practice job interview because I thought answering the questions in a job interview was the same as the impromptu speech, so if I could give an excellent impromptu speech, I could also do well in a job interview. This confidence prevented me from getting nervous during the practice interview, but it could not help when I got stuck.

My interviewer asked me which company and what position I wanted to apply for, and I introduced the company’s website and what they do in the industry. My interviewer listened carefully and asked me some questions about it, and then we started. The questions she asked me were likely to appear in the actual job interview. I could do well at first since those questions were about myself, like “Tell me about yourself” and my strengths and weakness. But I got stuck when questions moved to situations that happened in my life and how I handled them. When the question came to tell me about a time I failed, many options appeared in my mind, and I had difficulty choosing one. After a while, I decided to pick a time I didn’t do well on an exam, but I hesitated since I thought if I talked about it, would the interviewer question my ability to learn? Then I realized I spent too much time thinking about the question and didn’t give any responses to my interviewer. I panicked, and my confidence was shaken dramatically. I completed the following questions without knowing what I was talking about.

I was afraid my interviewer would give me negative feedback and ask me to prepare before the next practice interview. But she told me I did well in this practice interview, especially in answering the questions about why I am interested in the company and program. She could tell that I researched the company and knew what I wanted to gain from this internship experience. She could have said words like you didn’t do well in this part or that question. Instead, she showed me the Interview Preparation Guide and used it to tell me where I could improve my answers step by step. I learned that my responses were like giving the answers to an exam. I was finding a solution to a problem, which wouldn’t help in getting the job I wanted. I should combine my answers to the company and the positions I apply for. Every time you finish the answer to the question, you shouldn’t end the speech but state how this can help your career here in the future. For example, when answering questions about my weakness and strength, how can I use my strength in the job and improve my weakness in the position? When I left the room, I knew exactly what I could do to prepare for my following job interview.

I want to share four tips that I learned from the practice interview as follows:

1. Don’t be embarrassed if you are nervous.

As you gain experience, you’ll become more at ease with the interviewing process.

2. Focus.

On your attributes, transferable skills, and willingness to learn, don’t apologize for lack of experience; describe your strengths in terms of what you can do for the organization.

3. Be prepared for personal questions.

These questions concern you, and they are the ones you can easily prepare for before the interviews. Think about what skills your employers are looking for and what kind of people they would like to work with, combining them with the culture of the company you apply for.

4. An interview is complete once you follow up with a thank-you note.

Express your appreciation for the interview and, if true, reaffirm your interest. This last step can make a difference. Remember it.

The interview is a stage for the interviewees to show themselves to the employers and convince they are the best fit for the positions. But it is not a stage to show off; it is a conversation where you and the interviewer engage in a mutual exchange of information and ideas. Through this process, you can determine if you, the company, and the job are well-matched. So, again, preparation is the key to success. Try not to be arrogant or have too low self-esteem. As talented as Steve Jobs, he still practiced thousands of times before the Apple conference, what’s your reason not to prepare for an interview?

These are the resources you can use to prepare for an interview:

  • Interview Preparation Guidebook– contains tips and tricks designed to help you prepare for an interview
  • Big Interview (note: works best in Chrome)- this online site allows you to do some additional practice before your interview. It will provide you with ideas of other types of questions to prepare for (traditional and behavioral-based) and allows you to record your responses so you can watch yourself back for some of the things we discussed.
  • Career on Demand– bite-sized videos with tips and advice covering all aspects of Career Development
  • Virtual Interview Supplement – best practices for virtual interviewing

You can also schedule a 30-minute career coaching appointment to discuss interview preparations for a specific industry or job. Please click here for more information on scheduling a career coaching appointment.

For more information, you can also read the blog post: Practicing Before an Interview: Why You Should and Resources to Help – UConn Center for Career Development

Image by ijeab on Freepik

By Ge Li
Ge Li