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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Mock Interview

What sort of jobs have I interviewed for? Here's a partial list:

U.S. National Security Agency country/regional analyst
People Airlines (now defunct) flight attendant
retail store assistant manager

Those are jobs that I applied for, got interviewed for, and was not hired for. (Thank god!) During my university studies, I never even heard of a course such as the one I now teach, a communication skills course in which a segment is dedicated to assisting/familiarizing students with resume and application letter writing, and then with preparing for and performing at a job interview. If I'd had such a course, who knows where I would be today....

Where was I today? In class facilitating mock interviews. In each class there were four team. Each team of three or four students read and evaluated the application materials that another team's individual members had prepared, peer reviewed and revised in advance. The evaluating team, much like a hiring committee or HR group, would rank those individuals from the other team based on the quality of the materials in relation to a specific job, internship or graduate program application and then begin the interview process.

The interview process entailed setting up the room in office-like quadrants, with one team per corner behind a row of desks. In their respective stations each team created their first set of interview questions, set for the peer they'd ranked #1. During a point in the question preparation process, each team then lost one of its members, that being the person who was ranked as having the best set of materials. She or he, along with the top ranked person from each of the other teams, was directed into the corridor, there to wait until being called upon by the peer team for an interview of approximately 10-15 minutes.

Back in the classroom, each team crafted its questions, and each individual adopted a particular stance, whether friendly and smiling HR person, impatient and brusque interrogator or something in between. A request was made for Academy Award worthy performances, both from the interviewers and the interviewees. No matter what the demeanor of each interviewer was set to be, all sessions had a principle interviewer and a note-taker, the person whose main task was to reflect on the verbal and nonverbal behavior of the applicant. When the first round of interviews finished, the process was repeated in a second round then in a third, and then in a fourth. In this way, every student had an opportunity to be an interviewer multiple times, and to be interviewed once.

After all the rounds were completed, a debriefing session was held where students were encouraged to share something about their experience.

This is another opportunity for such a debriefing. How do the students view the process and these interviews? That's exactly what this bog post is all about.

Students, please add your thoughts. Innocent bystanders, please see the commentary below.

14 comments:

Guo Cheng said...

I am surprised that you went to a lot of interview. Maybe you should have chosen Dick Cheney's company. It is now making good profit.

I feel there are too many factors in a interview: Dressing, body language, confidence, honesty, credibility......

It is said that middle age women are hard interviewer to deal with. They can listen to what a person say and examine his or her body language in detail. I learned this from a history channel program called "the secret of body language".

And there are many so call "interview tips". For example, if a interviewer asked "When will you be ready to work?", the correct answer is "I can start working tomorrow". I really wonder how well these tips work.

One important tip I learned from my senior is that nowadays HR people like to spot personal blog, twitter, and facebook.

kun lin said...

I feel that the interview sessions, be it being interviewed or interviewing others, were priceless. However I feel that more time could be allocated for everyone to share their experience as I believe all of us had an unique experience.

I felt that there should have been a blog post for the interview session as well. Which will aim to reflect upon the interviewee's actions as well as giving a chance for his/her interviewer to directly comment on his/her interview. In this way other students may actually read first hand experiences of other students and indirectly gain interview experience.

With that said, I have actually uploaded my personal post in the blog regarding my interview experience as well as comments about my peers whom I interviewed. Being an "ungraded" blogpost, I have chosen to communicate effectively rather than professionally. Hope my readers won't mind!

Ranmali said...

I found the mock interviews quite interesting, and I know this will sound strange - but I feel like I learned more from an interviewer's standpoint slightly more than an interviewee's. For one thing, for the first time in my life, I watched other people as they struggled to answer interview questions I set out for them. Something I realized is how subtly you can send across nonverbal cues that can say a whole lot about yourself than you could say with words. In both good ways and bad. I don't know if See Chai was aware of this, but when he started talking about his Velomobile designing project, there was much passion in his words and I could swear I saw his eyes light up for the first time throughout the whole interview. At the same time, others twiddled their fingers and fidgeted, conveying apprehension. It made me wonder what signals I sent out when I was in the spotlight.

I also felt that the interviews were not as scary as it could have been because I knew my interviewers, and I didn't feel the pressure of actually needing the job I'd applied to.

Overall I think I learnt some very invaluable tips first-hand.

Hou Zhisheng said...

I felt that the mock interview was a valuable experience. It gave us the opportunity to be in the interviewer's seat and gain insights to the process of evaluating interview candidates such as seeing one's attitude, posture and composure.

However, I felt that the familiarity we have with one another might be a hindrance to experiencing a formal interview setting. It would help to be dressed for the occasion, and may I also suggest that the interviewers are shuffled after each round so that each of us can experience different styles of interview. I would love to see Joshua in action!

Moreover, shuffling the interviewers would make the setting more realistic as the interviewee would not know who his or her interviewers are until he or she enters the room.

Jerone JI LU said...

To be honest, I love this experience!
In fact, I am a person who likes interviews. Normally, people feel nervous about going through interviews. However, for me, I think interview is always a fun experience to me! Maybe that's partially because I like to interact with people to show what kind of a person I am rather than write a statement introducing myself. Although sometimes interviewers are nasty and they make you feel irritated, it is still a valuable experience to me. In class, we have gone through so many points about interviews, which I think are very useful. Yet I think by going through interviews and experiencing by yourself would be an effective way to improve as well. Anyway, like Brad has said "Life still goes on whether the result is good or bad!" At last, I want to say: have fun at interviews and treat them as your unique experiences in life!

Deenise said...

The interview session in class was very useful indeed.This is especially so when Brad actually suggested some of the interview "tactics" employed by interviews to us in class.Right now, we are all psychologically prepared for our future interviews.

In response to Jerone's comment, I think we could all find some joy in an interview process.I guess it will be less nerve-wrecking when you treat the interview as an interaction session with new people.

Kian Leong said...

Dear Brad,

I thought the peer-interview was an excellent chance to practice some skills that can come in handy in the future. For example, 'quick-thinking' skills. It is something similar to talking with one's friends; when we carry out a conversation, we are often able to respond immediately.

The thought process while conversing with friends is a valuable resource we should tap into. Even more so, bring it to another setting: Interviews.

I liked the part where I could try my best to make quick responses to the interviewer's questions, particularly "trap" questions. Usually, if one tries to re-create such a scenario outside a classroom with a group of friends, its almost impossible to pull off such an act.

I think besides the fact that being interviewed by friends could be less intimidating, the overall process was a great experience to practice, learn and be learnt from.

Stephanie said...

First of all, I'd like to say that the mock job interview was great although I felt how nerve-wrecking it was only at the moment Brad asked us to leave the room. To be honest, I just prepared a little before the class. This perhaps attributed to the nerves I felt. Normally, I would be "calm" if I felt I had gone prepared for any interview. That's the best I can do and at least my conscience tells me so - hence, no regrets despite whatever outcome it may be.

Let me share some thoughts on why I felt the session was beneficial (and fun too!). It gave students the oppportunity to be the interviewers and think like them. Questions have to be articulated in order to meet the objectives of the interview. This is sometimes not easy.

Also, with such diversed background we all have, it was challenging to anticipate what questions were to be asked. Therefore, this sort of open up opportunities for different questions. Better to stumble on the answers in this mock interview than in the real interview =)

shihhan said...

I thought the interview session was interesting as this was the first time whereby I am being interviewed by people I know personally. I have to say my interviewers were pretty nice to me. However, it was still scary to be one of the first few to be interviewed. Thankfully our experience was not as bad as Soon Yee's and Thuwin's! (:

I am starting to appreciate the jobscope of the HR department. It is not an easy feat to interview people for jobs that you have very limited knowledge of so I guess it does not seem to be exactly that fun to be on the other end of the table too. (:

peirong said...

I find the mock interview session very rewarding and enjoyable.

This mock interview session allowed us to have the experience of being both the interviewer and the interviewee. This allowed me to be able to experience the perspectives of both being interviewed and interviewing others.

One interesting thing that I have found out was that I noticed someone, whom I shall not name, behaving exactly the same way I behaved when I was being interviewed. I only realized that I tend to go around in circles and not answering questions subconsciously during my interview, after interviewing one of my peers who had the same problem. This struck me and led me to be more aware of my possible weaknesses during my interview.

The main learning points that I have taken away from this activity is to be prepared and stay calm during interviews.

Jude Too Soon Yee said...

Interviews are like singing. Why so one might ask. Having never experienced an interview before, I have never thought there would be a million things to take note of during the process of it all. Some people simply shrug it off by saying you just need loads of confidence and you are bound to do well.

Personally, I believe that is inaccurate. A fine line seperates confidence and arrogance. Moreover, you might be confident about the wrong things. Ever watched American Idol when the singer can be completely tone-deaf and they 'believe' that they are the best singer in the world. They might never realize that until they actually listen to themselves on record. Similarly, you might 'believe' that you are confident during an interview amongst other thoughts but all that matters in the end is still the message that you send to the interviewer. Personally, I need practice and practice makes perfect. ALthough Brad might not think rehearsing is the best way to do it, I still think I need a lot more experience in interviews and experience is also another form of practice.

cheers.

Brad Blackstone said...

Thanks, guys, for all the comments. Your perspectives are very interesting. I'm glad that you found value in the mock interviews. As they say, there is no substitute for experience. The interview experience in our class session, even though it was simply with classmates, has proven time and again to put students to the test, both as interviewers and interviewees. I was glad to witness such an amazing effort made by so many of you, all for the sake of challenging yourselves. Thanks a million!

Shi Ting said...

First of all, I was surprised about the diverse of the job scope that you had gone for interviews.

Anyway, even after so many weeks and days, I felt that I can still distinctively describe what was happening during that mock interview, which you had arranged. For example, Lalitha’s stern look, the questions that were asked, and the nervousness I was going through before entering the classroom, I can still remember them clearly in my mind.

I believed that this mock interview had provided us a great opportunity to practice on our interview skills. Especially the no smiling part, it helped me to foresee what was going to happen to me if I were to meet this kind of interviewers. As up till now, the interviewers that I had met were smiling at all times and very friendly. So this was really a great experience for me.

In conclusion, I had learnt a lot from this mock interview.

Shi Ting

Bev said...

How funny, I just helped out with mock interviews at our church job seeking networking group...
Guess I should have read your blog first!!

Cousin Bev