Once you get to the interview stage of your job search, you've already survived several layers of screening as hiring managers compare your application materials (i.e., resume, cover letter, transcripts) to the needs of the position. But as the National Association of Colleges and Employers advises, "the interview will make or break your candidacy. The interview is your chance to prove to the employer that you have what it takes, will fit in, and are the best candidate for the job. This requires careful preparation."
Practice interviews, in addition to company research, should be part of your preparation strategy. You probably won't able to anticipate all of the interviewers' questions, but you can rehearse how you'll respond to sample questions. Consider how your answers can help you present your skills, share your success stories, and describe how you meet the organization's needs. Interview practice can not only improve your skills, but also reduce your anxiety about being interviewed.
Build Your Skills Online
A career advisor colleague recently reached out to ask me if I could recommend any interview preparation tools, and I had to admit I was stumped. I knew there were options for students to record video mock interviews as a practice run for the real thing, but my experience with this kind of software was in a career center's office and I wasn't really sure what might be available online. This question sent me on a search that resulted in this list of free, web-based and mobile solutions all designed to help you prepare for your next job interview:
- My Interview Simulator: This site allows you to simulate a mock interview with over 100 questions organized in categories and sets. This system doesn't record your responses, but does feature audio prompts along with text-based tips for responding to each question and examples. (Note: this one requires Flash.)
- Monster.com Interviews: Just one of the many mobile apps available, this one from Monster is for iPhones and iPads. Features of this tool are presented in a before, during, and after approach, and include: recording your answers to practice questions, turning your device into a mirror for a last minute check, finding local resources like coffee shops near your interview location, and documenting your thoughts immediately after the interview.
- Interview4.me: As a job seeker you can sign up for a free account to access this online practice interviewing system. With your computer's webcam and microphone you can record your responses to five typical interview questions presented by the software. This site also features a 60-second video introduction format that you can record, save, and share on your social networking profiles.
- Quizlet: This site offers sets of online flashcards covering a range of topics, including job interviews. In addition to question prompts, you'll also find tips to help you frame your responses. Check out the behavioral interviews set using the STAR approach: Simulation or Task, Action you took, Results.
- DIY Options: If you can't find what you need to help you prepare for a specific interview you have scheduled, try a do-it-yourself approach. Enlist a friend or family member to conduct a mock session with you in person, on the phone, or online using a free tool with video, such as Skype or Google Hangouts. Your instructor or a classmate may have experience in the field and be willing to help you prepare. Provide your practice interviewer with a short list of anticipated questions based on your research of the industry and employer.
Using technology to practice for a face-to-face meeting gives you the added experience setting up and running the systems you may encounter if invited to participate in an online interview. You may even find that employers are interested in conducting initial interviews over the phone or using web conferencing tools with video capabilities, before asking you to meet with them in person.
School Resources are Available
Students and alumni should include their Career Center as an ally in interview preparation. Find out what resources are available and ask specifically about:
- Access to software: BigInterview and InterviewStream, for example, are fee-based tools that have partnerships with colleges and universities that provide access for students through school affiliated login procedures.
- Additional resources: Whether your career center is online or on-campus, explore the events calendar for job search webinars and workshops that cover interview topics.
- Individual assistance: Career advisors may be able to schedule a one-on-one appointment with you to address your expectations of a job interview as well as conduct a practice session.
Have you used online resources to prepare for a job interview? Tell us about your experience and recommendations.
Image credit: trekkyandy, Flickr, CC:BY-SA