Lessons learned from mock interviews
Our lead fabricator and I went to a local high school to host mock interviews as part of their career readiness program. The venue included a roundtable style interaction with each table suited with 6 “candidates.” Juniors and seniors poured in at the start of their day looking dapper to say the least, and those looking to enter the manufacturing industry joined us.
The students were surprisingly prepared. They were very professional, each with a firm introductory handshake and excellent eye contact. Their body language conveyed confidence and they seemed ready to take on the position should it be offered to them. After introductions, the interview started with the traditional ice-breaker questions. All of them answered fluently and flawlessly. It got boring quick as they gave perfectly articulated responses much like softball questions given to a politician. So, I quickly threw them some curve balls because I wanted more genuine responses that showed me who they were, and not just canned and scripted answers.
“What is your favorite animal, and how does that relate to your work ethic?”
A question I’ve been asked before, and I think a window into the heart of a candidate. What would you say? A dog? A cat? A pink fairy armadillo? (Yes, that’s a thing). Students’ eyes grew wide and there were no immediate answers. Refreshing. The fake interview just got real. I basked in their struggle just for a moment and then took a time-out to explain why I would ask this. After some coaching, here are some answers I received:
“A snake because it is fast, accurate, and every move is purposeful and precise.”
“A shepherd dog because they are both loyal and hard working.”
“A tiger because they are always aware of their environment and willing to adapt.”
Being prepared is necessary for any interview, and that includes being prepared for the spontaneous. It may seem like an oxymoron, but it is absolutely essential to be ready to give an answer to a question that you could never expect. It requires a deeper level of thinking; a paradigm shift to make any response both relevant and advantageous. You must be prepared for anything including off the cuff questions. How do you do this? The same way you learned to ride a bike… something you didn’t need to consult an online expert to do.
1. Practice. Check out some of Google’s interview questions.
- How many golf balls can fit in a school bus?
- A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
- How many ways can you think of to find a needle in a haystack?
Can you answer these and showcase your professional skills at the same time?
2. Practice again. Find mentors and/or peers to ask you questions and have them evaluate your responses. Better yet, ask them and evaluate theirs! Challenge yourself to step out of your comfort zone and talk with an actual person instead of simply rehearsing with online suggestions or talking to the mirror (or dog).
3. Practice even more. Only now be mindful of your pacing and delivery – don’t rush lest it sound rehearsed, and don’t pause too long as they'll think you’re making it up as you go. Be patient and breathe. If you don’t know the answer, take the time to think it through. Consider your body language and consider strategies such as mirror and match.
4. Practice constantly. No matter the environment, always be looking to add value to a conversation. Ask yourself if your answer to a question would actually benefit the purpose of the discussion. This is not to say chime in every time you feel you have the answer, which some professionals feel the need to do. Sometimes it is better suited to be an active listener and observe how others interact. You’d be surprised on how much you can learn from watching others interact with one another.
Being prepared is necessary for any interview, and that includes being prepared for the spontaneous.
The workforce, namely manufacturing, doesn’t need the most interview savvy individuals. This industry doesn’t need to know how many tennis balls fit into a 747 or why some poor sap lost his money playing Monopoly (get it, Google?). What we do need is innovative people willing to learn to design a jet, build a hotel, and assemble hay baling equipment.
With that in mind, Northwest Technologies is hiring!