Interview Questions: Don't Mock the Mock Interview

Published: Mar 10, 2009

Don't shy away from having yourself videotaped and critiqued at yourcareer center. These programs are always voluntary - but students don'talways take advantage.<p>Most MBA career centers offer the opportunity for students to do a mockinterview, which is normally videotaped. These mock interviews areconducted either by professional career counselors or by second-yearstudents, and mock interviewees are given the videotape of theircritique to watch at home (again and again.). Students may choose whatkind of interview they'd like to receive: consulting, venture capital,and so on.</p><p>What mistakes are commonly unearthed by the videotaped interview? Onecareer counselor says that he finds that "most MBAs don't have theirstory down. They can't elaborate why they came to business school, andwhy they want to work in the industry." The finest candidates are ableto describe their background and career history and make a pitch aboutwhy they are interested in the firm, all in a minute or less.</p><p>Another problem - surprising for confident MBAs - is that manyapparently "can't elaborate their strengths. They have them, but can'tsell them. They are too modest." While there's no use demurring whenexplicating your good points, career center professionals warn that"there is a danger of tooting your horn too much" - so make sure you'renot making any claims for competency you can't back up with relevantexperience.</p><p>In general, say career counselors, to take advantage of their mockinterview, students should take it as seriously as possible. While notrequired, many MBAs dress professionally "to get themselves in theinterviewing mindset." Some students even schedule a mock interview anhour before their real interview - so that the feedback from theinterviewer is fresh in their minds.~</p><p>Good mock interviewers will go over the interview with MBAs to assesstheir strengths and weaknesses as a candidate. The best candidatesexpress enthusiasm, show the ability to organize thoughts, finishquestions with a complete yet succinct answer, demonstrate knowledge ofthe industry and its particular lingo, and cut down on annoyingmannerisms and body language (tics, leaning forward, wandering eyes,etc.).</p><p>Career counselors usually take their questions, no matter how nutty,from actual interviews. "While the incidence of trick questions,brainteasers and oddball questions is decreasing, they do pop up." Oneactual question (which is apparently making the rounds with realinterviewers): "If it could rain music, what would grow?" "Don'tsmirk, be creative," urges the career counselor.</p><p>Mock interviewers also coach MBAs on appropriate answers. "Forexample," explains one mock interviewer, "many candidates are asked toname their top three weaknesses. Answering with your actual weaknessesis not a good idea. So when I identify a student's weaker point - maybethey are weak on real teamwork experience - we strategize on anappropriate answer. It's better to say something like "I wouldn't callthem weaknesses, but there are three areas in which I still have room togrow," and then choose three areas that are not deal-breakers.</p><p>Do interviewers thus end up hearing the same canned answers over andover again? "I do hear from some interviewers at certain schools - notmine! - that they do hear identical answers to certain questions," saysone insider. "My advice to students is to always put answers into theirown words."</p>