Take Stock with a Mock Interview

Dear, Anita,

I have worked for and run the family business for over 33 years, but due to dwindling sales, I am going to have to close the doors and go to work for someone else. I applied for a promising management position, and have been called in for an interview. I know the questions I used for the specially-skilled positions at my company, but am unsure what will be asked of me. Help – I’ve never been on the other side of the desk! 

Job InterviewDear, First-Time Interviewee,

I’m sure in your tenure as a business owner that you’ve seen your share of faux pas in employment interviews.  Check out Top 10 Interview Fails  and see if any of the mistakes seem familiar.

Now that we’ve broken the tension with a good chuckle, let’s talk turkey.  Don’t wing it; be fully prepared for your interview. Write out your answers to common interview questions, and then rehearse them out loud until they sound conversational rather than scripted. Enlist a trusted friend or colleague to participate in a mock interview to give you valuable feedback. They can let you know if you’re talking too fast or if you answered a question with uncertainty. You may wish to videotape yourself. I know, it’s painful to listen to your own voice, but review the recording and analyze your performance like a pro sports coach. Some career centers and counselors offer mock interviews for an even more realistic experience than pretending with a biased buddy at your kitchen table.

As you probably know, the ice-breaker is usually, “Tell me about yourself.” While some experts maintain that your answer should be 100% work related, I disagree… slightly. The interviewer is not hiring a robot; they are hiring a team member that should fit into the company culture. But do keep the personal bit short (“In my spare time, I’m an avid cyclist”). You shouldn’t rattle on, sounding like an online dating profile.

Pick out a dozen or so of the tough ones in Monster’s list of 100 potential interview questions (don’t be alarmed… you won’t be asked all of them!). For a management position, expect to answer some variation of “Describe your management style” or “What would your direct reports say about you?”  In your situation, the interviewer may ask about the specifics of your business closure. See From Self-Employed to Employed for my advice to entrepreneurs re-entering the workforce.

This mock interview video from health care company Cerner Corporation is geared toward recent graduates, but illustrates some dos as well as don’ts for first-time interviewees:

Readers: Let’s role-play! In the comments below, give your best answer to the opening volley, “Tell me about yourself.”


Interview DO’s and DON’Ts
Interview Tips
Talking too much in an interview

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kim C.
    Apr 28, 2015 @ 22:54:44

    I just had a mock interview yesterday and it went great. I made two small mistakes during the mock interview that I would not have done in actual interviews: 1) I forgot to offer a copy of my resume to the interviewer, 2) I forgot to hold out my hand for a handshake at the end of the interview. Everything else was great. I kept my answers relevant to the questions asked, I was not long-winded, I demonstrated enthusiasm for the position, I had given an example of dedication of my current job and lastly, I smiled.


    • anitaclew
      May 01, 2015 @ 09:00:25

      I’m so glad you did a mock interview. Now you’ll be sure to correct those mistakes when you go to the real deal!


  2. Tiffany Lieu
    Nov 18, 2014 @ 13:19:24

    I was caught totally off guard when I came across this question the first time during this one interview. Got too much into my personal backgrounds at the beginning. The female interviewer responded that they were looking for employment related details. I was lucky she seemed less critical about the mishap in answering this question more accurately. I think it affected the interview somewhat maybe. It took a little longer than it should be to recollect the job experiences for the answers too. So, generally we should be more prepared for the slightly challenging question statement.


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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