Posted by Brian McCullough
There’s tons of advice out there on how to ace the interview. From books, to professional coaches to lists of potential interview questions and answers.
A few years ago, I was introduced to a DIY interview preparation hack that seemed kind of unique. It might not be feasible for everyone, but if you have the time, inclination and cojones, this really could be a great way to prep for the BIG interview.
In short, it involves going on test interviews… but by test, I mean real live interviews.
This technique was introduced to me a couple of years ago by a client I was working with. I was offering him my services for interview prep and coaching. I’ll try to paraphrase what he told me from memory:
“Don’t need any interview coaching. I get all the training I need from my trial runs,” the client told me.
I asked him what he meant by that.
He said that when he knew he knew he was looking for a new job, he’d spruce up his resume (which I had helped him with) and then he sent it out to any place he could find.
“And then I’ll take anyone who will interview me. From jobs I don’t want… even from jobs I know I’ll never want. I’ve interviewed at McDonalds to flip burgers. It doesn’t matter. All I’m after is the experience of going through a real, live interview process. All the coaching in the world isn’t as good a preparation as sitting down with someone and having them interview you for real.”
So you go on lots of interviews for jobs you know you don’t want to take? I asked.
“Yeah. You’d be surprised how much you can learn by interviewing at a job you know you don’t want. You’re not nervous… you’re confident. And that’s a big part of it. Learning to be calm and confident and answer their questions in the best way. I can train myself to do that by going through interviews knowing that even if they want me, I won’t say yes. It’s like practicing for the big game without the pressure of the bright lights or the crowd. I can focus on being calm and confident and I can run through different things, to find out what works and what doesn’t. It’s like practicing for the real thing by going through your paces in a live-ammo situation.” (note: this guy was former military)
Again, this technique is not for everyone… and probably not even practical for a lot of people. But shoot, I couldn’t argue with the guy’s logic. Why go through some phoney interview questions with me as a “coach” when he could get pretty much the real thing by going out and doing it live?
This strategy would probably work best by trying to replicate the sort of job you’re going for as closely as possible. Interviewing at McDonalds might not teach you as much if you’re going for a high level accounting position in a white collar corporate environment. Although, I can see the value in just doing the exercise to make sure your muscle memory is strong. And he does have a point about the “confidence lessons” you could glean by interviewing for a job you feel is beneath you. Maybe you can learn to mimic the same poise and focus when you’re nervously interviewing at that dream job of all dream jobs.
Still, this technique probably has it’s best application if you can interview at several positions that closely resemble the one you’re really interested in. The guy is right… it would give you the chance to battle test and game plan out various strategies to find out what works and what doesn’t before you try your luck in the real thing.
I’m just putting this out there as an idea. I don’t know of anyone else who has tried this, but there’s nothing wrong with it. Have you ever done anything similar?