You wouldn’t speak in front of a crowd or give an elevator pitch without practicing.
Your career’s most significant moments often require rehearsal. And that includes job interviews.
You may know your professional skills inside and out, but no matter how knowledgeable or confident you are, performing well in an interview takes preparation. Using approachable body language, maintaining the right rhythm and tenor to your speech, and knowing what questions to ask don’t necessarily come naturally.
Mock interviews give you the chance to rehearse for the big day, smashing last-minute doubts and building confidence. Here’s a guide to conducting practice interviews that help you put your best foot forward.
What’s a mock interview?
A mock interview is a practice session that simulates a real job interview. You work with a mentor — like a career coach, peer, or counselor — who asks you questions as if they’re the interviewer. Unlike workshopping your answers with a friend, mock interviews aim to be as realistic as possible, meaning you give one firm response and move to the next question.
Mock interview practice lets you adjust your gestures, verbal cadence, and answers to tough questions. That way, you learn what questions to expect and how to behave in the actual interview. The person listening to your answers can then give you feedback and constructive criticism, helping you identify areas of opportunity so you stand out and land the job.
What to expect during a mock interview
According to applicant screening company JDP, only 37% of people practice mock interviewing. It can be stressful, and it’s easy to avoid this process out of intimidation.
But if nerves have held you back from stretching your interview skills, this is the time to face them. A practice interview is a safe space, and it’s your chance to discover how anxiety impacts your performance without actual pressure. Mock interview prep teaches you to expect the unexpected and respond to difficult questions you might not have considered on your own.
That said, you’ll want to head into your session with some expectations. Here’s what you’ll typically tackle in a mock interview:
A mock interview should feel as close to the real thing as possible. You’ll enter the session, whether in an office-style space or a video conferencing room, with your resume in hand and interview outfit on. If you’re working with an interview coach, they should greet and treat you like a hiring manager would.
The interviewer should ask about your hard and soft skills along with details about the company you’re applying for to ensure you’ve done your research. In a mock tech interview, they might ask about your coding skills, client-facing experience, and how your expertise supports the company’s development initiatives. They’d also test your knowledge of the organization, asking questions to determine if you’re a good cultural fit.
Before the interview starts, you should tell the person helping you what your goals are so they know what to look for. After the session, they’ll provide feedback on factors like your nonverbal communication, responses, and their overall impression of your performance. Depending on the coach or mentor, you can try again to implement that feedback in a safe space.
You can also continue to rehearse on your own post-session — better yet, with a recording of the mock interview. Setting up a camera in a live session might be tricky, but if you have time and the coach allows, go for it. If meeting virtually, hit the record button. Use the video to workshop the answers that need more practice.
And if you don’t have time to hold a true mock interview, there are many other ways to practice. Running questions in the car, taking notes on tricky answers, and chatting about the process with a friend all ease the process. Any practice is better than none.
3 benefits of mock interviews
There’s no shame in struggling with interviewing or fretting that your lack of experience won’t be enough to sway a hiring manager. The interview experience is high stakes, and it’s natural to feel uneasy, especially when you’re excited about the job opportunity.
When you prepare for your interview, you take control of the situation and show yourself just how capable you are. Here are more reasons to practice mock interviews:
Get your prep work out of the way
You should prepare for your mock interview like you would a real one, which means thoroughly researching the company and job description. As you learn about the organization and what the hiring manager seeks in a candidate, you’ll determine how your skills align. In the process, you’ll generate talking points you can use both in the mock session and the day of.
Learn how to talk about yourself
Tooting your own horn can be uncomfortable, but if there’s a moment to do so, it’s in a job interview — and a mock session is the best place to practice. On top of learning how to talk about your skills and goals, frame your experiences and personality. What sets you apart from others? Is it your excellent management skills? Your ability to stay calm under pressure? The more you practice self-promotion, the less squeamish you’ll feel doing it.
According to a study from the Sport Management Education Journal, mock interview participants are more confident and less anxious after the experience. Practicing in this environment and tasking yourself to answer probable interview questions prepares you for the topics that will come your way.
4 mock interview tips to help you prep
Getting ready for a mock interview is much like doing so on the day of the actual meeting. The more seriously you take this rehearsal, the more you benefit from the session. Here’s how to prepare for a mock interview with intention:
Dress to impress
Spend time choosing a thoughtful look for your interview. Your outfit should represent the company culture, but veer on the side of professionalism, even if the organization doesn’t have a dress code for its employees. Business casual is often a safe bet for laid-back environments.
Use the same outfit you’ll wear on your big day for the mock session. You’ll learn how long it takes to iron and put on, and confirm that it’s practical for an interview. You may want to rethink wearing a blazer if you get too warm in the mock meeting.
Have your materials handy
Print copies of your resume and cover letter as you would for the day of your interview. The mock interviewer will likely want to see these documents and form questions around them. Having them handy makes your mentor’s life easier and lets you both explore questions a recruiter will ask about your experience — including the tough ones, like why there’s a gap in your career history.
Plan to arrive on time
According to a survey from recruiting software company Jobvite, 46% of recruiters say lateness can disqualify a candidate. Punctuality shows you’re responsible and likely to show up for work on time, and that starts with a mock interview.
Research your transit route and build in extra time for unexpected delays, like traffic. Whether taking the session via video conference or in person, factor in plenty of time for preparation. Don’t let a last-minute outfit change set you back.
Go in with an open mind
Professional career coaches and counselors know how to ask challenging questions, just like a job interviewer, so expect the unexpected. Prepare to learn something about yourself, and take feedback with grace. Your mentor is doing you a favor when they throw you difficult interview questions.
Accepting feedback is arguably the most important part of the mock interview because it’s the one that helps you grow. If your interview partner notes that you speak too fast when nervous, then practice slowing down before the interview. If they advise you to strengthen an answer to a common interview question, take time to improve your response. You’ll perform better the day of.
5 mock interview question examples
There’s no way to predict every question a recruiter will ask, so your mock interviewer will keep you on your toes with hard-hitting questions. Learning to navigate these moments of uncertainty in the safe space of a practice session helps you solidify your interview skills.
But you can have a more productive practice interview by preparing responses to common questions, improving the meeting’s flow and helping it seem more real. Here are a few questions to prep for:
- Tell me about yourself: This situational question is surprisingly challenging because it’s so open-ended. Use the opportunity to introduce yourself, talk about your strengths, and highlight what makes you unique.
- Describe a challenging professional situation and how you overcame it: This question allows you to highlight conflict management skills, adaptability, and resilience. Use the STAR method to describe the situation and your responsibility in it before explaining how you took action toward an excellent outcome.
- What are your weaknesses?: Weakness is a topic you might not enjoy discussing, especially when the goal is to show off your strengths. But nobody’s perfect, and this question is a good opportunity to talk about your growth mindset. Provide an anecdote about a time your weakness surfaced and you made the best of the situation.
- How do you handle conflict?: There are several conflict management styles, and you can impress the interviewer by describing yours. This shows self-awareness and demonstrates how you anticipate handling conflict on the job. Be ready to provide an example.
- What questions do you have for me?: Chances are, you’ll be tired at the end of your interview. But you should never brush off the invitation to extend the conversation. Think about questions to ask a hiring manager to fall back on in case no new ones arise in the interview. Plan to ask something open-ended and give the recruiter a chance to talk up the organization. Try “Tell me about the company culture” or “What do you enjoy about working here?”
Practice makes perfect
A mock interview’s meaning is in the name. It’s your chance to experience a job interview without the high stakes of the real thing.
There’s nothing wrong with practicing for an interview in front of the mirror or drilling questions with a family member. But a rehearsal feels far more authentic if you role-play with a professional coach.
They can give you valuable feedback you or your loved one wouldn’t necessarily come up with. No matter what, you’ll learn from your mock interview and improve your chances of scoring your dream job.