To be an excellent baseball player or pianist, you'd practice. You wouldn't expect to hit home runs effortlessly or play at Carnegie Hall with no preparation. The same principle applies to interview success.
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At this point, you've come to understand the feelings of despondency caused by losing your job. You've learned about your strengths and weaknesses. You've researched the position, company, industry, and the interviewers themselves.
Now, it's time to practice.
Job candidates often walk into interviews without practicing first. They think they can just "wing it." They're overconfident, and they're making a mistake.
Instead, do the following things to practice before every interview:
Practice by Yourself
It might seem unnatural, but practicing by yourself will make you less self-conscious. Use a mirror to practice answering questions. Observe your facial expressions and body language.
When I was out of work, I practiced for interviews on my daily walks. Sure, people would occasionally overhear me reciting my elevator pitch. They would catch me answering potential questions. They would see me gesticulate with my hands as I practiced refining my body language. You might feel more comfortable practicing by yourself, maybe while driving. This is perfectly fine, but expect to get some weird looks from other motorists.
Practice With a friend
This takes more courage than practicing by yourself, but it is also more useful because it gives you the chance to get feedback on your answers and body language. The friends you chose to help you should be objective and somewhat critical, but not discouraging.
Having done your research, you can predict (up to a certain point) the types of questions that will be asked. Write these on a note card and have your friend pose them to you. Practice answering the questions with confidence, proper body language, and accurate content.
A proper mock interview is perhaps the best way to practice. However, they're not easy to come by.
Most mock interviews are conducted by career advisors who use digital cameras to record the interviews. When the recording of your interview is played, you can observe your body language and hear the content of your answers. Are you fidgeting with your fingers? Are you maintaining eye content? Are you answering the questions directly? Are there too many "ums" and "ahs"?
A trained career advisor will point out your body language and comment on your content. Most importantly, they'll let you see and hear your mistakes. You'll leave with the video on a flash drive so you can rewatch the session in the days before the interview.
As mentioned above, you can't expect to perform well in sports or music without practice. Treat the interviews you attend with the same mindset. Confidence comes from research and practicing beforehand.
Check back next week for part five, when we'll talk about making a good first impression.
Bob McIntosh, CPRW, is a career trainer who leads more than 15 job search workshops at an urban career center.