How to Get the Most Out of Mock Interviews

Anthony PellegrinoAnthony PellegrinoPublished

Have you interviewed at a big tech company recently? If you've never done it before, chances are you were surprised by how extensive and challenging they may be. In many cases, they will consist of several rounds of meetings and are usually all-day affairs. As such, one of the best ways to prepare yourself for a stunning performance is to practice beforehand. As the classic saying goes: practice makes perfect. Going through mock interviews before your big day can give you the training and experience like few other forms of interview prep can. But why are they so helpful?

Well, mock interviews are very advantageous as they benefit both the interviewer and the interviewee. That is, when both are aspiring tech candidates, as is the case in our peer-to-peer mock interview tool.

For the interviewee, mock interviews can build their confidence while providing an opportunity to evaluate their skills such as brevity, culture fit, performing under pressure/constraints, and more. For the interviewer, mock interviews allow you to step into the shoes of a hiring manager. In doing so, candidates can glean unique insights into evaluating interviews from the other end of the table.

To get a better idea of what a mock interview consists of, check out this mock product management interview with a Facebook PM below:

In our article, we'll walk you through how to get the most out of your mock interviews. We'll do so for both an interviewer and interviewee. Not only that, but you'll receive helpful tips on how to give, receive, and integrate interview feedback so that you can walk away from your mock experiences with the most useful information possible.

So, let's get to it!

How To Be an Effective Interviewer

Eastwood by Icons 8

First and foremost, Exponent's peer-to-peer mock interview platform allows you to take the role of both the interviewer and interviewee. As we mentioned, playing the role of the interviewer can provide many unique insights into the mindset of a hiring manager. Ultimately, this can be nothing but a benefit to you as a job candidate at the end of the day.

However, the Exponent Mock Interview platform allows users to structure their interviews in a very open-ended way. Chances are, you may want some guidance on the best way to interview someone effectively. To do so, just follow these steps:

Plan Beforehand

If you're thinking of interviewing another fellow job candidate, you should always do some planning beforehand. If you hope to receive a valuable mock in return, you owe it to your mock interviewee to plan ahead. Otherwise, you may be scrambling or unorganized in your approach, which, as you can imagine, does not provide much in terms of effective interview practice. Depending on the kind of interview you are conducting, you should prepare some questions beforehand. Also, you should outline the interview structure you plan on following to keep things moving if need be.

Nevertheless, it is also possible to over prepare for your mock interview. If you develop the structure too thoroughly, your interviewee has the chance of answering each question with one that is "conventionally" correct. That is, over-planning tends to produce leading questions that are not helpful. While an effective plan can help guide your candidate through their mock interview, it is meant to be just that: a guide, not an answer key.

Develop Rapport with the Interviewee

Secondly, as an interviewer, you should strive to develop a rapport with your candidate. Interviews are stressful affairs for job candidates, especially at big tech companies. In most cases, significant anxiety makes it more challenging to answer interview questions most effectively. While the stakes are undoubtedly much lower in a mock interview, the nature of the interaction could still feel a little awkward or stilted. To be most effective, you should still build rapport with the interviewee. A genuine and friendly connection between the interviewer and interviewee can nurture interview answers.

Maintain Positive Body Language and Behaviors

As we mentioned, effective interviewers guide the candidate through the interview session. If you've gone through some real interviews before, you should know how influential the interviewer's behavior can be. You always need to keep this in mind when conducting mock interviews. Negative body language can be hugely detrimental to a candidate's performance.

As such, you should try to positively guide your candidate through their mock interview. Try to maintain a welcoming tone of voice. Always pay attention to your interviewee rather than looking distracted or like you're not listening.

Ask Valuable Questions

The primary instruments interviewers have at their disposal are, of course, their questions. Needless to say, you'll need to ask valuable questions to be an effective interviewer. Not only that, you should ask the kind of questions that can nurture informative responses. If you need some ideas, be sure to review our list of top interview questions here. As we mentioned, if your questions are too leading or if the "right" answer is too obvious, it is not an effective one. You want your questions to be open-ended enough to give the candidate the room to answer how they see fit.

How to Be A Good Interviewee

Eastwood by Irina Molchanova

Chances are, it feels a lot more straightforward playing the role of the interviewee in mock interviews. In this case, being a good interviewee depends on several general interviewing tips. However, here are some of the most notable that will help you get the most out of your mock interviews:

Record Your Interviews

Needless to say, the mock interviews you participate in with Exponent are conducted virtually. This makes it easy to record your interview sessions if you choose to. We recommend that you always do so. For the same reason that athletes often record themselves and review it later, you can rewatch your mock interviews to better understand your performance. Not only that, these recordings can help give you insight into critical interview factors such as body language, maintenance of eye contact, and general confidence.

Have a Copy of Your Resume at Your Disposal

In most interviews, hiring managers ask candidates to bring copies of their resumes. It is recommended that you bring along several copies, always keeping one for your own use during your interview. You should do the same for your mock interview. That way, you'll have this very informative resource to refer back to as you answer your mock interview questions. Ultimately, any small act like this can help you feel as though your mock interview is a close to the real thing as possible. If so, you'll be getting the most practice out of your mocks possible.

Don't Memorize or Rehearse Interview Answers

While it may feel tempting to review past interview questions and rehearse some answers to them, this is not a very wise thing to do. After all, you can not possibly memorize answers to every interview question that will come your way on the big day. If you rehearse answers instead of practicing how to answer interview questions, you, unfortunately, won't get very far.

You'd be better served in creating a story bank that you can fall back on during your interview. These are lists of 5-10 stories/examples of past performances that you can easily recall and talk about during your interviews. Indeed, you'll probably have little idea what questions will be asked. Therefore, your story bank can help you have material to fall back on as needed.

How to Give and Receive Good Feedback

Eastwood by Dmitry Nikulnikov

Giving Feedback

If you're the interviewer in a mock interview, you'll be expected to (and should) give the interviewee feedback. After all, the whole point is the learn and practice your interviewing skills. Nevertheless, it may feel challenging to give effective feedback. This is especially true because chances are, you are not a hiring manager that's given countless interviews before.

Fortunately, useful and compelling interview feedback share many of the same traits in common. That is, great feedback is always precise, well-timed, relevant, and honest. Let's look at each of these qualities in more detail:  

  • Precise: Ultimately, feedback should be as precise and specific as possible to be most effective. It may do more harm than good if you are too broad or vague in your critiques.
  • Well-timed: You'll have many chances during the interview to provide feedback. However, don't think it is the only appropriate time to point something out. The most effective feedback is well-timed. In other words, it is delivered as closest to when it becomes relevant as possible. For instance, if you have a comment regarding an aspect of the candidate's approach to some question, say so then. Don't wait until the end.
  • Relevant: This should be no surprise, but the best feedback is relevant and applicable to the candidate. The most relevant feedback should be actionable and specific to the interviewee's performance.
  • Honest: Finally, effective feedback must be honest and true. Truth be told, this may be the most awkward aspect of delivering feedback during mock interviews. Giving someone an honest critique about their personal performance may feel uncomfortable because you'll likely need to point out something negative. It's never easy hearing that you did something wrong or there are areas of improvement. Nevertheless, honest feedback is necessary to truly grow and improve-especially when it comes to interviewing for highly competitive jobs.
Eastwood by Dmitry Nikulnikov

Receiving Feedback

Listen Up

Sounds obvious right? The first step to productively receive feedback is listening, of course. But, the truth is, this may be a little harder than it sounds. You may find yourself becoming distracted or lost in your thoughts when you're receiving feedback. If you have trouble hearing criticisms towards yourself, you'll find that this becomes much more pronounced. For example, you may find yourself saying to yourself: "well, what do they know, anyway?" to a bit of uncomfortable feedback. If so, you're actually not listening.

Try not to take anything too personally, especially if it causes you to lose sight of what your interviewer or interview coach is trying to tell you. Listening is a skill - an essential one for effectively receiving feedback.

Ask For Additional Details or Clarification

Now, this is a part of active listening, as well. If you are truly listening to and absorbing the feedback you are receiving from your interviewer, you'll naturally want to know more. You should always take the opportunity to ask for additional detail or ask your interviewer to clarify aspects of their feedback. This way, you'll get the most out of their evaluations. Keep in mind that, during peer-to-peer mock interviews, your interviewer may be another like-minded job candidate. Where hiring managers may automatically give adequate details in their feedback, some members of the Exponent community may not. Therefore, never hesitate to ask for more information.

Practice with Exponent's Mock Interview Tool

There's nothing quite like real practice before a tough interview. Are you interested in mock interviews, but unsure where to start? Luckily, you can practice alongside thousands of Exponent community members using our mock interview platform. All you need to do is select your role and you'll be matched with a like-minded job candidate.

Whether it be for product management, system design, or behavioral interview questions, practice your tech interviews today!

For even more interview prep:

💬 Study up on previous interview questions

📖 Read through our company-specific interview guides

👯‍♂️ Practice your skills with our peer-to-peer mock interview practice tool.

👨‍🎓 Take one of our comprehensive interview courses.

Your Exponent membership awaits.

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