Interview Preparation: The Three Levels

There a number of key components to getting yourself thoroughly prepared for any job interview, and the last step is most probably rehearsing. Here are three levels of interview rehearsal that will ensure this last phase is done well and gives you the strongest chance of presenting yourself in the best possible way.

As a preface to this, I would start by saying that the basic steps need to have been done before you can move on to rehearsing. This includes broadly answering the following questions: Do I have a clear understanding of what business issue/s the firm is trying to solve or improve? Do I have the skills and experience required to do this? Am I ready to talk about my skills and experience, and to explain how I can thus deal with their business challenge? Am I prepared to withstand robust enquiry and indeed, is this the right place for me?

Having thought through these questions, you are now ready to rehearse:

Level 1 Rehearsal. This can be done alone but is better with a friend or partner. This level of rehearsal is like a ‘table read’ that actors will do as the cast takes on a new play. You can practise very gently, running through your answers to obvious questions about your experience as it relates to the ‘competencies’ associated with the role you are interviewing for. Prepare beforehand for the questions you will likely have to answer, drawing on the job specification, job advertisement or what the recruiter has told you about the job. In this stage of rehearsal, your friend or partner asks you questions that you have pre-empted and prepared for them to read, and you answer them in the best way you can.

I would suggest that you debrief each answer and capture your collective thoughts in clear notes. For example, ‘That answer started well but then you seemed to lose track and started to waffle’, or ‘You kept talking about what the team did, but I want to know specifically what your input was’. Do be honest while also remembering to cut yourself some slack in the first round of rehearsals.

Level 2 Rehearsal. By this stage, you should be fairly well warmed up. Again, work with someone you know and get them to now ‘Red Team’ you as a candidate. By this I mean that you both look critically for areas of weakness in your presentation: Where do you not meet the brief? Are there any awkward gaps in your CV? Are there any particular skills or experiences that you feel that you are lacking? Having identified them, work together on how to deal with these perceived areas of weakness. Use counter-arguments or find additional value that you can bring that will ultimately outweigh any weaknesses in the mind of the interviewer. Then, do a bit of sparring like a boxer, starting off with easy questions before moving on to more demanding – but now well-prepared for – questions.  

Level 3 Rehearsal. This is where we get serious. Find someone who is prepared to help but you don’t know particularly well and, if possible, someone who understands the role, your CV and the basic premise of interviewing. This person’s job is to help you with the third and final level of rehearsal, which we will call ‘robust’. Your interview not-so-buddy can start off gently if they want to, but at some stage they need to make two shifts in gear: The first is from gentle to a more robust enquiry, which digs into the issues that you identified when you did the Red Team work at Level 2. The second shift in gear needs to be surprising, possibly uncomfortable, and certainly unprepared for. This is designed to make you think on your feet and beyond the confines of the work that you have done so far. Again, don’t expect to get this right the first time – in many ways, you are not meant to. You will have had something of a rough ride, and this will be an experiential learning experience that demonstrates your ability to handle anything that could happen in a real interview. Learning through experience is often much more powerful than learning at an intellectual level. Keep going back and forth, re-answering the same tricky questions until you feel on top of it and finish on a high note.

Preparing for a job interview is by no means an easy process. However, by putting in the time, effort and thinking at varying levels of rehearsal, you can ensure that you arrive at an interview ready to give it your best shot. If you could welcome a conversation on how else you can prepare for a job interview, get in touch:

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