Whether you are reading this as a student preparing for EAE or a young adult going for your first job interview, this interview guide is going to be applicable for you.
The focus here is on how to practice for an interview. If you are looking for specific interview tips, then check out this video instead:
Interviews are going to be nerve-wrecking for most people.
It’s just not something we go through often on a regular enough basis to get used to it. For many of you, this could even be your first time going for one, so that is the main issue we are going to tackle. We want to iron out your jitters or stiffness so that you can present yourself in a natural and comfortable manner.
We accomplish that by grinding practice interviews until we are comfortable.
There are three ways we can go about practicing.
- Alone | Face the wall, use a mirror, or open a video conference room and switch on your camera
- Pair | Keep the setting formal like an interview by using table and chairs
- Group | Same as Pair
It is a simple process of asking and answering interview questions in an interview setting until you are used to the format.
There will be an action plan at the end so don’t worry about the specific steps here, just read through understand the process.
- Put on your interview clothing
- Mentally tell yourself that you are having an interview now
- Ask yourself or have the other party ask the interview questions
- Answer the questions
- Identify one key area to focus on
- Start again from Step 1
KEY AREAS TO IMPROVE ON
These are the areas where most people struggle with during interviews. Take note, during your practice you might encounter other areas to work on. These are just three of the common ones I see with my students and myself when I interview people or go for job interviews.
Stiffness / Jitters / Nervousness
You probably don’t feel comfortable during the interview. You might be feeling really stiff or perhaps jittery. It’s basically an uncomfortable feeling.
Each time you go for another round of practice interview, this feeling should fade on its own. Because much of it is caused by your inexperience with interviews. It is something new and you are not used to it.
That’s the good news. Just keep practicing and it’ll automatically get better.
The bad news is that you are not going to feel 100% comfortable. This is because a part of the uncomfortable feeling is caused by stress and you cannot get rid of this stress because it is caused by the importance of the interview.
It’s fine. A bit of stress will keep you alert and prevent you from looking bored or aloof during the interview. And most interviewers are going to expect a bit of nervousness because that’s the nature of interviews.
You may notice that you are giving answers in short phrases or even just one or two word answers.
This is something you will have to consciously work on. Remember what you have in your portfolio and the achievements you got. Actively try to say more so that you become more comfortable after each round of practice.
Should you write a script?
For students, yes, I have found that most of my students are much more comfortable with a script. Without a script, they end up panicking and give really short answers. In my opinion, it is better to sound like you’re reading a script than to give short answers.
Only a small handful of my students (usually my student Presidents) are comfortable enough without a script to still speak naturally and answer properly.
For working adults, no, time to take off the training wheels. Bear in mind that for me as a teacher, I always believe that my students (which is you right now since you’re reading my article) are more capable than they think they are. Hundreds of students later and I still stand by this belief because all of them have managed to surpassed their own expectations.
Even if you have a script or some notes memorized, practice until you are able to deliver it naturally. It will give you an edge over the other applicants who are fresh out of school and still performing at the level of a student.
Inability to Think
Most interviews will share a couple of standard questions. Why do you want this course/job? Why should we choose you? Those are easy to prepare for.
Most interviews will also ask you special questions unique to the context that the interview is held for. These questions are usually designed to make you think on the spot, because the interviewer wants to see how you respond to it.
For example, in the context of a polytechnic Film course:
“Do you know how to operate a camera?”
“Imagine you are on set now and the camera doesn’t switch on. What do you do?”
There will be questions like that where they want you to think and come up with a response immediately. It is what separates candidates and give interviewers a better sense of your ability.
As you go through each round of practice interview and work on the first two areas, this third one will slowly improve on its own as well. Because the more comfortable you are (Stiffness/Nervousness), the better you will be able to think. And the better you are at elaborating your answers (Short Answers), the better you will be able to speak and convey your thoughts.
Let’s use the same student of mine from the EAE Write-Up Guide as an example.
If you’ve read that article then you know that her portfolio is pretty strong for the accountancy course she was applying for. Distinctions for all of her Mathematics subjects, three leadership positions of which two are in the Executive Committee (EXCO), and a couple of awards here and there.
However, she was one super awkward turtle during our practice interviews. Stiff as a nail and totally unlike her usual persona.
All we did was go through those steps up there over and over again, while I guided her using those three key areas.
- First round, incredibly stiff, one or two word answers, barely communicated any of her achievements
- Second round, still really stiff, visibly nervous (I could see her taking deep breaths), but managed to share a couple of her achievements
- Fifth round, visibly more relaxed, could answer in long sentences
Even without my guidance, she would have improved a lot by simply practicing with her friends.
INTERVIEW PRACTICE QUESTIONS
In general there are two types of questions asked during interviews.
These are the usual questions that are common across most interviews.
- Introduce yourself / Tell us a bit about yourself
- Keep it relevant to the course/job
- Why do you want to join this course/job?
- Provide evidence to support your reasons
- Why should we choose you?
- Provide convincing answers with evidence
These are the questions that are unique to the course or the job that you are being interviewed for.
Search on Google for the interview questions that are based on the context of your interview.
- “Interview questions for EAE xxx course”
- “Interview questions for information communications industry”
(If you skipped everything above and jumped to this, you are probably going to say that this article is useless. Please don’t be that guy. Read the information above first so that this action plan makes sense.)
- Find a friend to practice with (I don’t recommend alone)
- Setup the interview (Sit at a table)
- Put on your interview clothes (Your clothing will affect your mentality)
- Mentally tell yourself that you are in an interview now (make yourself nervous)
Step 1 – Interviewer ask Standard Questions. You answer.
Step 2 – Interviewer ask Special Questions. You answer.
End of Interview
Step 3 – Interviewer give feedback (too stiff, too soft, too fast, etc.)
Step 4 – You identify key area to improve on (don’t limit yourself to the 3 areas identified here)
End of ROUND 1
Repeat Step 1-4 for subsequent rounds until you meet the criteria to stop.
When to stop:
- You feel confident which means:
- Noticeably less tense than in Round 1
- Able to elaborate when answering questions
- No major issue to work on based on feedback
- Feel good/prepared/better in general
From what I’ve seen, the stronger your portfolio is, the easier the interview becomes.
For some students their portfolio does most of the talking for them during interviews. For working adults, there is this thing call Head Hunting where a company will approach you to offer you a job based on your portfolio. In that situation, the power balance sort of tilts to your advantage during the interview.
All the best for your interview!