How College Students Can Improve Their Interviewing Skills by Practicing with Peers Online
It’s said that we have 80,000 hours in our lives to work. To spend all that time, it’s no wonder we put so much energy into finding work we enjoy that pays well.
So we go to college to get a degree. We take our degree and apply to positions at companies where we think we could be happy to work (and of course, be paid well). And everything that has led up to this point hinges on one thing: interviews
The slow, careful work of a lifetime has led up to this moment. And it’s hard not to feel nervous.
To feel unprepared. And yet this is a pinnacle moment. We need to feel prepared.
This is why I advocate for practice. Not with yourself. Not with flash cards in your room alone. And not with the people you feel most comfortable around. But with a select group of people. People who want to improve their interviewing skills and recognize practice as an integral part of getting there.
The following is a guide you can follow to organize your own practice interviewing sessions with your peers at school.
Step 1: Form a group for the practice session
In order to organize a peer interviewing practice session, first you’ll need a group of your peers to participate. Four to five people is ideal, and you probably will not want to exceed six
So how will you organize this group? Here are some ideas:
- Ask a professor to send this guide out to the students in your class, explain your interest in organizing the practice session, and see who responds.
- Ask your career services center to distribute this guide to students who are actively seeking ways to prepare for job and internship interviews.
- What communities are you apart of at school? Intramural sports? Greek life? The engineering club? The school paper? There are peers all around you. You can initiate. You can organize if you choose to.
And yes, this group can consist of your close friends. But when you go in for a job interview, chances are the person sitting across from you will not be a close friend.
If you want to simulate the uncomfortable feeling of answering questions to strangers (this is the hard part!), your best bet is to organize this with acquaintances or people in the wider communities of your campus network, using strategies like we’ve listed above.
Step 2: Choose your group video chat platform
Once you have your group, it’s time to choose a video conferencing platform. This can be done with Skype, Facebook Messenger group video chat, or Google Hangouts, but I recommend using Zoom. Zoom.us has become the go-to video conferencing platform for the corporate and professional world.
The platform’s features include video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars, screen sharing, recording and it allows you to schedule meetings and send calendar invites via email to the individuals in your group.
A bonus aside is that learning this platform is something you can add to your resume as more and more companies are using it for internal remote communication and external communication like marketing webinars.
Step 3: Schedule your practice session and send calendar invites
You have your group, you’ve chosen a platform. Now it’s time to put your practice session on the calendar.
Send an email to the group with the details.
- The day and time
- The duration of the session
- Where you’ll be meeting online (provide the appropriate links)
This can be sent in a simple email. Or, if you use Gmail, you can create the event in your calendar, include these details in the appropriate sections, and add the emails of the individuals in your group on the right hand side where it reads ‘Add Guests.’
This will allow you to send the calendar invite. You can even set up notifications to remind yourself and the others of the event in the days or hours before the session.
Step 4: Decide what type of interview questions you’ll practice and share them with the group
Depending on what you’re studying and the field you’re planning to enter after graduating, the questions you choose to practice in your interview session will vary.
You may choose to work on common behavioral interviewing questions like “Tell me about yourself” and “Why should I hire you?”.
Or, maybe you’re planning to enter a profession that has its own set of technical questions that are specific to that field. If this is you, a quick online search will often yield lists of commonly asked questions in specific industries.
You can also use the resources available to you on campus, such as career service centers, to dig in and find out more.
You could even take it as an opportunity to reach out and make connections to companies. Call them up. Tell them what you’re organizing and see what they’ll share with you about interviewing with them.
Whether the organizer chooses these questions or the group decides together is up to you.
Step 5: Prepare and familiarize yourself with your answers to those questions
To prepare for the live practice session, we recommend each student in the group reflect on and outline their answers to the set of questions chosen.
This will allow you to show up on “game day” and give it your all. Students who prepare as if they’re going to a real interview will get the most out of these practice sessions
As it often goes in life, you get out of it what you put in.
Step 6: Decide on a format
Think about how you want to structure your practice session.
Does each person play the role of interviewee for fifteen minute chunks? Or are questions asked in a rotating or turn taking fashion?
Do participants interview one specific person? Or does every student get to ask questions of each group member throughout the session?
This is again up for you to decide.
Your group should have a goal for the practice session. And with that goal in mind, ask yourself what format makes the most sense?
Step 7: Meet and practice
You’ve organized your group. You’ve decided on the content and format of your practice session. You’ve individually thought through your answers.
Now, it’s time to meet.
You get to decide on the overall tone and vibe of the practice session. Whether you go more formal or more casual, we find that a general posture of positivity and generosity make for the most rewarding experiences.
Step 8: Give each other feedback [IMPORTANT]
After you finish asking and answering your questions as a group, have an open discussion about how it went.
This can be one of the most beneficial, yet often overlooked, parts of your practice session. It’s where your peers can help you see what you couldn’t see before.
What went well? Did you have good posture? Where is there room for improvement? Could you have spoken more slowly?
Have something nice to say? Say it. Have questions about how you did? Ask them.
By running through this practice session, you’re investing in yourself and you’re investing in your future.
What else is more important?
-Guest Post by Cameron Brown
Cameron is the Director of Workshops at PeerInterviewing.com. PeerInterviewing.com helps job seekers become better prepared for job interviews through interactive online workshops. Students learn a step by step process that they can use to organize and effectively communicate their professionally-relevant experience. Then they are placed in a setting where they have the opportunity to practice answering questions out loud and on the spot with real people.