How role playing can perfect your interview skills

Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Communication coaches video their clients' presentations to highlight distracting mannerisms or awkward body language. Role playing your interview from beginning to end (with a friend "acting" the interviewer) can do more than just reveal a limp handshake.

A consistent message

Your entire "performance" should allay an interviewer's greatest fear – that of choosing the wrong person. Does your appearance, attitude, and the way you reply give the overall impression that you are a safe hire? Your interviewer needs to be convinced of three things: that you can do the job; that you'd fit in (and be easy to manage); and that you want the position.

Better timing

Practice keeping your answers to two or three minutes. Find the right balance between being thorough but not boring the interviewer. Over-long answers mark you as a poor communicator.

Increased confidence

You'll sound more relaxed and natural if you've gone through the most likely questions on the technical aspects of the job as well as the more general questions.

Typical of these are "Why do you want this job?" or "Tell me about yourself." The underlying question is "Why should we hire you?" so make sure you can answer concisely and confidently. Include a brief summary of your background and how it's prepared you for this role, an awareness of the challenges you'd face, and how the role fits in with your career goals (this being the last, rather than first part of your answer.) Demonstrate that you've done your research, and that you have the right abilities and background.

Prepare for a question on your strengths. You can give a less "salesy" answer by starting "My manager / colleagues / clients say..." Be more believable by giving specific examples of how this strength translates into results.

Don't duck the weakness question (or any of its alternatives like "What areas of your performance does your manager say need improvement?") You need to show self-awareness coupled with a desire to improve. Choose a weakness that isn't critical to the role, and say how you're overcoming it.

An interviewer will probably dig around for red-flag areas, and role playing your answers will help you deal with these gracefully.

For a question on why you left a previous job, don't give the impression that you're an under-performer or difficult to work with. If you were made redundant, be careful your tone of voice doesn't betray any anger or bitterness. You can also frame a wrong choice of job as a learning experience.

Deal with the fear that you'd leave as soon as something better came along (expressed in the "over-experienced /over-qualified" question) by explaining why the job is such a good match. Conversely, answer the "under-experienced" objection by reminding the interviewer of your other qualities.

Greater credibility

Story-telling techniques allow you to give a better picture of how you work.

Use a CAR (challenge – action – result) format in competency-type questions, such as "Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a problem". Prepare four or five stories showing you have the key skills for the role, as well as the usual communication, problem-solving and team-working skills.

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