What is a mock interview?
A mock interview is a simulation of an actual job interview.
Pilots practice in simulators before they fly, Marines train with rubber bullets before going out into real combat, and students take practice tests before the real deal.
In a high stakes situation – like the opportunity to land your dream role – practice in a low-stakes environment is essential to building confidence and honing your skills. Mock interview preparation is hands down the best way to nail a job interview because it’s the closest thing to a real interview.
Typically, an interview coach will have a list of questions to ask depending on the company/role you’re applying to, or take a structured approach to assessing one area of your skillset (i.e., focusing on culture fit, or your fluency with numbers/data for the position).
This allows you to practice what you’ve prepared and respond to various questions. A good coach will give you direct feedback that you can immediately apply. People see a big improvement in communication and their practice examples even after one hour of mock interview prep.
The five proven benefits of mock interviews
1. Tangible results
Based on our data from over 1,000 mock interviews on Carrus.io, we know that 3-4 hours of mock interview prep significantly increases your chances of landing the role. For those who have not applied to a role yet, you can 3-4x your chances of getting the interview. For those who already have an interview request, we see anywhere between a 50%-100% increase in landing the role with 3-4 hours of coaching!
How much, exactly, depends on several factors including your role, the coach, and your interview experience. Some people only need 2 hours of coaching before it really clicks. While others need a lot more (10 hours+) of practice before they are smooth and confident enough to get through the demanding interview. Your coach will be honest with you and tell you where you’re at and how much more practice you need.
2. Tailored & direct feedback
Great career and interview coaches are very good at two things:
- Giving honest feedback and
- Asking great questions
If they’re really good at both of these, they should make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
Their sharp feedback cuts to the bone of the problem, and their questions make you consider your approach more deeply. ‘Ah, maybe I need to go back and dig up some more data/information about this example to make it really effective.’
The best questions often come from asking “why.” They test your assumptions and push you where you perhaps couldn’t go by yourself. During a mock interview, a coach isn’t going to give you all the answers of course — you know your experience best, after all. This is why reading Glassdoor answers to popular interview questions is never really helpful. It says nothing about your specific experience.
An interview coach often doesn’t know until they’ve spent a bit of time talking to you and understanding your strengths/weaknesses. Once they do, they can give more tailored feedback that will improve your interviewing skills and make a direct impact on your results.
All mock interview prep is not made equal, though. It’s fine to practice with a friend or a family member, just for the sake of getting comfortable with your examples. But unless they’ve previously worked at the company (or similar company) that you’re interviewing at and are a trained interviewer, it’s unlikely they will have all the expertise to give you the best feedback. The most effective way is to practice with someone who has worked for that company before and preferably hired many people.
3. Improve confidence
According to a recent survey, a majority of job seekers (93%) have experienced anxiety related to their interview. This is understandable and expected. It just means that it’s important to you! Even if you’re an experienced interviewer yourself, being on the other side of the table is a whole different story.
Practice breeds fluency and comfort. Going through your interview examples, getting feedback, and improving is enough to give you an edge over 99% of other job seekers. Confidence can also come from a new perspective. Coaches on Carrus.io can help shed light on the interview process and share their insights as former employees at these companies, offering a real peek into what it takes to land the role.
A simple example: we often have the idea that the interview is an exam. When we think this way, it leads to more stress and a feeling that we’re being judged or have to ‘perform.’ Reframing the interview from being an exam to a conversation with a colleague where you’re problem-solving together can totally shift how you approach the whole interview process.
4. Build the interview muscle
Most answers to interview questions should be up to two to three minutes. They should be told in the form of a story, with a beginning, middle and end (STAR format). They should include enough context to answer the question, but not too much context that you easily slip and go off on a tangent. (If an interviewer wants more context, they can ask you a follow up question. This is why you should know and practice your stories/answers deeply, but only start with the tip of the iceberg when answering the question)
An interview coach can shoot out mock interview questions, time you, and give you feedback on the fly to adjust your approach. When you’re first starting to practice your mock interview questions, you’re probably going to ramble. You’ll be nervous and unsure whether you’re really answering the questions. This painful experience is a necessary part of the process to improve and nail the interview.
After a few hours of mock interview practice — assuming you are taking the feedback and applying it — you will polish and hone your answers to the point where explaining your accomplishments and detailed experiences will be second nature. Interviewing is a skill, and you have to either learn the skill or brush up a bit.
There is an important caveat here. I’ve seen people sign up for interview coaching and sit through 3-4 hours of coaching, reading off the interview answers they wrote down and not making the effort to apply feedback. This is rarely effective. Mock interviews only work if you are engaged and take the advice to change your approach.
5. Stand out in a competitive market
Less than 1% of job applicants get an interview request for leading tech companies (and these statistics are also similar regardless of what company you apply to). Those who do get an interview have anywhere from a 5-10% chance of landing the job. In other words, with millions of applicants and a competitive job market, in order to stand a real chance you need to find an edge.
The biggest mistake people make is not preparing enough. The first interview, even if it’s with a recruiter or HR manager, is an assessment of your skills. Even if it’s called an ‘introductory call’ or a ‘casual chat,’ it hardly ever is. Spending a few minutes or an hour preparing is usually not enough, and many people drop off at the initial stage just because they underestimate the importance of the first call. Or, an interview request can come suddenly with little time to prepare — rather than taking the interview you can push back to reschedule so you have time to prepare.
The second biggest mistake people make is not focusing on the right things to prepare. You could spend hours reading books about Jeff Bezos, listening to Amazon earning’s calls and reading letters to shareholders. These are great for supplemental interview prep, but an extra random fact about the company is usually not the reason you land the job.
An interview coach can help make sure you’ve done enough prep, point out any gaps and make sure that you’ve focused your preparation on the right areas!