The Power of Practice: Mock Interviews and How to Handle Curveballs

Not many people would say that interviews are their favorite part of looking for a new job. The anxiety that can creep in distorts the impression we make on the interviewer and overshadows all of the wonderful skills we would bring to the job.

This is why it is essential to practice the interview process. The more we do something, the less awkward it will become. And if we can relax in the process, we’re more likely to have fun, which ends up leaving a more positive impression overall.

Some may offer the advice, “Don’t sweat it! Just be in the moment, be yourself, and have fun.” While this is all true, it isn’t in your best interest to replace preparation with being in the moment. Preparing, running mock interviews, not sweating it, having fun, being yourself, and being in the moment all come together to help you showcase your truest, most genuine and professional qualities.

Those that take the route of “just winging it” can often be left flapping in the wind when a doozy of a curveball question comes their way. This is why incorporating a slew of off-the-wall questions into your mock interviews is a great way to stay grounded in your interview and improve your ability to have fun when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. 

Research Is Your Friend

There is a lot that a single Google search can provide when it comes to the type of questions your prospective employer may ask you. Sites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn are a great resource. And in general, googling for “list of interview questions” will put you on the right track for designing your mock interview scenarios.

One way or another, your objective is to be prepared for anything. So don’t get caught up on which questions you hope they will or won’t ask you. Think of every question as an opportunity to weave in what uniquely makes you who you are, and the skills you have that are well-suited for the job.

Bring Them In On The Process

When someone asks you a curveball question, oftentimes they aren’t looking for a specific answer. Instead they are interested in understanding your reasoning process and ability to think on your feet and adapt. This means you shouldn’t be afraid to talk them through your process of finding your conclusion. For example, when an interviewer asks you a question like “What is your favorite dessert and why?” what they most care about is the “why.” Become very clear on what your main messages are and practice tying them into a multitude of topics using imagery and symbolism. 

For example, you consider your selling points to be resourcefulness, team building, and patience. Now create a network of associations with those skills. Movies, food, songs, athletes, artists, imagery, moments from your past, and elements of nature that could all represent aspects of those skills. Develop an explanation that supports those connections. Then when a random curveball comes your way, you can have a full grab bag of associations that easily tie back into your main messages and selling points.

Be Yourself. Really.

Practice is a tool to best showcase your true self. Be mindful not to slip into the mindset of guessing what they want to hear. And try not to alter your answers to better fit what you imagine their ideal candidate would say. Even more of a bummer than not getting the job would be working in a job that you hate because you pretended to be someone you’re not in order to land the position.

When mock interviews are used effectively as preparation, you’ll become more clear on your core values and operating style, and you’ll be relaxed enough to express them in a way that highlights your genuine personality. All of this creates the perfect formula for actually enjoying the interview process. And if we have to do something, we might as well do it well and have some fun while we’re at it. 


Kristie Santana is a certified coach, coaching educator and advocate, and founder of the National Coach Academy. More recently, she is the co-founder of Life Coach Path, which is a comprehensive resource for students looking to enter the field of coaching. You can read their latest blog post here.

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