While having dinner with several friends last week, the subject of job interview preparation came up. I had helped two of the people at the table ramp up for job interviews by role-playing an interview with each. Another friend politely questioned the worth of such practice stating that he didn’t see how an interview role-play could help. Why prepare for questions that you may never be asked? He was right; simply having a pat answer to any particular question wouldn’t be a lot of good. But that’s not why you should role-play the interview.

What can’t be Learned

Last Friday I role-played an interview with a friend. We spent 40 minutes in the session. I asked no questions about the specifics of the job. I’m not an expert in his field. I assumed he was qualified for the position. I didn’t particularly ask questions that I expected him to be asked in the actual interview. I asked categories of questions all having to do with cultural fit, work preferences, and character traits. 

What can be Learned 

I used a basic character based interview form, Pre-Selection Interview. The key was to ask open-ended follow-up questions. Here’s what we learned.

  • Facial Expressions – He made good eye contact during the entire interview. His facial expressions were real, relaxed, and calm; however, he didn’t smile once.
  • Voice – Throughout the process he answered using lowered inflection, which denotes confidence and assurance as opposed to rising inflection, which communicates the opposite.
  • Appearance – He was neat, clean, and professional. It may be best to ask the company about dress code or visit before the actual interview to view company dress standards.
  • Attitude and Demeanor – We discovered he had a tendency to answer questions negatively that could be answered in a positive manner. For example, instead of listing what he didn’t like at work, put it in favorable terms by explaining what he liked. This isn’t always possible or appropriate, but when it is, it can set the tone of the interview.
  • Body language – His body language, like his facial expressions, was confident and open. He faced me with open arms and good posture.

Who should role-play the part of the interviewer?

The optimum would be someone trained in the process, human resource specialists, or managers that have experience in interviewing. If none of those are available, ask a friend to lead you with several questions, and make notes regarding the five points listed above.

Should you practice interviewing?

If you’re in the job market the answer is yes, but not because you’ll have all the answers. You should role-play the interview because you may discover something as simple as not smiling, lack of eye-contact, or defensive body language. You may learn you have tendencies when answering questions that may not be in your best interest. Have you ever role-played an interview? Did it help?

Photo by Michael Patterson / CC BY-ND 2.0