How Mock Interviews Can Help You Succeed

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn what a mock interview is, its benefits, and how to set one up. You'll also discover interview questions to practice before a job or college interview.

[Featured image] A woman in a red sweater practices a mock interview on a laptop computer.

A mock interview, or practice interview, can help you prepare for a job or college interview. This simulation of the real interview experience can boost your confidence, help you hone your skills, and ensure you're well-prepared for the actual interview. You’ll answer potential interview questions, wear interview-appropriate clothes, and rehearse your interview etiquette.

The mock interviewer will provide feedback to help you improve your skills and feel more confident for your actual interview. Learn more about the benefits of a mock interview, when to use one, and how to prepare for it, and explore sample questions that can help you prepare for the real thing.

What is a mock interview?

A mock interview is a rehearsal for your real interview. It's an opportunity to simulate the interview environment, answer potential questions, and receive valuable feedback on various aspects, including your attire, mannerisms, and body language, all with the help of a friend or a career specialist.

Benefits of a mock interview

A mock interview serves as your interview training session, offering numerous benefits, most of which focus on building confidence and feeling primed for the interview. Some benefits of a mock interview include:

  • Learning valuable interview skills

  • Receiving valuable feedback and tips

  • Reducing your stress levels

Learn valuable interview skills.

A mock interview can help you learn specific skills, like the STAR Method. The STAR Method, which stands for situation, task, action, and result, is a formula to help interviewees succinctly answer each question. Here's a brief look at how you structure a response:

  • Situation: Set the scene and provide context.

  • Task: Explain your responsibility.

  • Action: Explain what you did.

  • Results: Discuss how the situation turned out.

This methodology can be a product of a mock interview and ensures each answer is succinct, memorable, and highlights your skills.

Receive valuable feedback and tips.

A career specialist will give you feedback to improve your interview skills. They can give you pointers on your responses, clothing choice, and body language. You may even learn about a nervous habit, like slouching or fidgeting, that distracts from your interview presence.

Reduce your stress level.

While interviews can be stressful, a mock interview could be one of the best tools to practice reducing your anxiety. While you might still feel nervous, a mock interview will help you feel more confident and ready to answer questions from a hiring manager.

When to use a mock interview

Although mock interviews have multiple uses, they’re most commonly used to help individuals prepare for job and college interviews.

Preparing for a job interview

A mock interview can help prepare you physically and mentally during your job search. The practice can help you prepare results-based responses, understand interview etiquette, and reduce the stress associated with the hiring process.

Preparing for a college interview

College students can leverage a mock interview to prepare for an admission interview. College representatives use the interview process to get to know you as an applicant and ensure you are a good fit for the university. A mock interview can help you make a good impression, showcase your interests, and highlight your skills.

How to prepare for a mock interview

Follow these simple steps to prepare for a mock interview:

1. Select a mock interviewer.

You can do a mock interview with anyone. You could ask someone you know, like your mom or a teacher, or you can work with a professional interviewer like a career counselor or career specialist. Professional mock interview services are also available online.

2. Dress for the interview.

A mock interview is meant to simulate the real interview, so consider wearing the attire you’ll wear on your real interview. This typically involves wearing well-maintained clothing. You may consider attire such as a tailored suit, a dress shirt or blouse, appropriate bottoms (skirt, pants, or another option), and polished footwear.

3. Mimic the real interview environment.

If your interview is a video conference, try to also plan your mock interview as such. Ideally, you'll use the same video conferencing software that you'll use for the real interview so you can practice things like logging in, turning on your camera and microphone, and even applying a blur effect to your background if necessary.

If your interview is in person and in an office setting, try to arrange the dress rehearsal in a similar setting.

4. Arrive early.

Arriving early to an interview gives you a buffer to find parking, check in with the receptionist, and calmly enter the interview. Consider doing the same for your mock interview, arriving 20 to 30 minutes before the start time.

5. Bring the necessary documents.

While you likely emailed your resume and cover letter to the hiring manager during the application process, consider bringing hard copies with you. Bring a small notebook and a pen, too, in case you need to take notes.

6. Research the company.

Familiarizing yourself with the company can help you understand its culture, align your responses with its values, and demonstrate genuine interest. You can do this by researching the following information:

  • The company website to learn about its values, mission, and products or services

  • The company's social media and Google for recent events

  • LinkedIn profiles of current employees for its culture and networking opportunities

Examples of job-specific interview questions

A career specialist will help you prepare specifically for your interview and can prepare job-specific questions to practice answering. Here are a few questions and suggested responses that could be part of your mock interview:

“Tell me about yourself.”

What they're really asking: Tell us why you're a good fit for this job.

Many interviewers start off with this simple warm-up question. Consider providing a short synopsis of your work history and explain how you're qualified for the new opportunity. More specifically, you can mention:

  • Previous work experience that relates to the position

  • The skills you'll leverage for the new role

  • Your strengths

Other forms this question might take:

  • Tell me about your background.

  • Why are you the right candidate for this role?

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

What they're really asking: Which skills do you excel at and which ones need improvement?

Review the job description and identify several strengths listed that coincide with your skill set to mention. Strengths might include leadership, communication, or writing skills. Weaknesses might include public speaking, delegating responsibilities, or responding to negative criticism. When you mention a weakness, describe how you're working to improve it, too.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What's your strongest skill?

  • What skill would you most like to improve?

Examples of company-specific interview questions

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

What they're really asking: Are you using this role as a stepping stone for another job?

To practice this interview question, discuss your professional growth and goals within the company as opposed to mentioning other opportunities you hope to obtain elsewhere. You could mention improving particular skills or learning a new skill that complements the role you're interviewing for.

Other forms this question might take:

  • How do you see your career progressing in this role?

  • What are your career goals for the next five years?

“Why do you want to work for this company?”

What they're really asking: Why are you a good fit for this particular role at this particular company?

Your company research can fuel this response. You can mention:

  • How the company's mission and values align with your own

  • Why you'd thrive in the role, given your credentials

  • How your passions coincide with the position or the company culture

Other forms this question might take:

  • What do you know about the company?

  • How does your experience make you an ideal fit for the role?

“Do you have any questions for me?”

What they're really asking: What do you want to know about this role or company that we didn't cover? Are you truly interested in working with us?

Other forms this question might take:

  • What aspects of the job haven't we covered?

  • What else are you curious about?

For your mock interview, come up with a handful of questions about the role or company, such as:

  • Can you talk about the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?

  • What goals are set for this position for the first month?

  • How would you describe the management style here?

  • What do you like the most about working for this company?

“Why do you want to attend this university?”

What they're really asking: Will you be a good fit?

Talk about your future plans and how the university will prepare you for them. You can mention specific academic and athletic opportunities that you plan to take advantage of to show why you're a good fit for the school.

Other forms this question might take:

  • What drew you to this university?

  • What are you looking for in a college?

“Are there any extracurricular activities you'd like to participate in?”

What they're really asking: How will you add to the college culture?

Explore available opportunities before your interview, and be prepared to list several activities you'd like to try. These activities could be academic-focused, like math clubs, or athletic-focused, like a sports team.

Other forms this question might take:

  • Do you plan to join groups on campus?

  • Beyond classes, what else do you want to get out of your college experience?

Next steps

To further prepare for your interview, consider taking online courses to hone your skills. A class like Advanced Interviewing Techniques on Coursera could help you communicate the knowledge, skills, and abilities you have to offer. The online class has flexible deadlines, and participants earn a certificate upon completion.

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