It can be difficult to practice interviews. We can hone our skills, rewrite our resumes, and rehearse our speeches, but those are all done by ourselves.
And they help to prepare us to get in front of hiring managers, but it’s not the same thing.
How do we actually practice interviews?
The only way there is.
By going to interviews!
Obviously we can’t just demand that hiring companies sit down and interview us when we want them too. (Would be nice, though – wouldn’t it??)
But we can go outside of the normal hiring process and use a massive tool within our disposal.
We all know they exist, but so many people have still never used them.
Thing is, staffing agencies seem to have taken on a background presence these days, even as they’ve become omnipresent. They’re all on LinkedIn, and their reach is probably further than ever.
But that presence is now almost entirely virtual.
Which means that while you can connect with dozens, hundreds, thousands (?) of staffing agencies anywhere in the world, everyone else in the world has the same accessibility.
Which also means that you can be lost in the noise.
Don’t spread your resources too thin
All recruiters are accessible online. And if you want to register with them, they’ll ask you to send them an email.
Great idea. Sounds efficient.
And I say:
Recruiters have been directing people to email and their web site for at least 15 years, and it makes sense – for them. They can manage the information through client management software, and they save time when they’re not popping out to reception every twenty minutes.
But for you? It’s a drag.
How many times have you met someone and said, “I recognize your face, but I can’t remember from where?”
We forget the details, but we remember the personal connection. Which makes the personal connection your biggest tool.
Make your mark
When you register with a recruitment agency, show up in person. Yes, I promise you that the receptionist will hand you a business card or a pamphlet with an email address on it.
“Send us your resume, 24 hours a day!” you’ll be told, as if it’s to your advantage.
Smile, accept the card enthusiastically, then come up with an excuse to meet with someone then and there.
Receptionists excel at the 30-second transaction. They are trained to be friendly even when it’s not warranted, and they’re trained to present simple solutions to simple problems.
So when you’re extremely friendly and present a complicated scenario, they’re not entirely sure how to manage it.
The first reaction will probably be to reiterate what they already told you: email your resume and someone will contact you. Maybe they’ll even give you another copy of the same card, just in case.
But if you push, and explain that that solution just won’t work for you, they will undoubtedly run to the back to get someone to help. That’s not a disrespectful comment – solving complicated problems just isn’t part of a receptionist’s work description.
How do you throw the wrench in the email wheel? There is a whole bunch of reasons you could cite.
“I’d like to know more about the types of candidates your recruiters looking for.”
“I’m new to the recruiting world, and I’d really like to talk to an expert to know what I can expect.”
One of the best might be the most honest: “I’m transitioning into another career, and I’d like to get an expert’s opinion on the best approach.”
It almost doesn’t matter what you say, as long as you remember three golden rules:
- No matter how helpful and eager the receptionist is, you really need to talk to one of the recruiters. Be persistent, and make it clear that you won’t be leaving unless every recruiter in the building is called away to an emergency meeting of the United Nations.
- “It will only take two minutes, I promise.” Highlight that only a minor inconvenience for the office will mean the world to you. Of course we both know that, if you hit it off with a recruiter, the conversation will last much longer than that. But all you want is an introduction with someone on the other side of The Wall – that isn’t too much to ask, is it?
- You are the friendliest person on the face of the planet. As mentioned above, in my experience, receptionists of human resources firms are exceptionally friendly and very professional. It’s an industry of people-loving people, and receptionists are the faces of those people-loving people. So if you act like an entitled, forceful jerk, you won’t progress an inch. But if you follow the first two golden rules and act like someone that the receptionist would actually want to help, then your chances increase exponentially.
A great dress rehearsal
Whether you’re invited into a recruiter’s office, or one meets you in the hall to arrange an appointment, either way you’ve set yourself up to achieve your goal: a way to practice interviews.
All of the same rules apply here: you have to present yourself as a qualified, personable asset that could bring tremendous value to any company.
The only additional step with a recruitment agency is that you’ll also have to explain your area of expertise; a formal interview will have already established the job, but a recruiter will be flying blind.
But is this really an extra step? Nope! It’s extra time to practice: in this case, practicing selling your personal brand.
While the recruiter might not have a list of formal questions to gauge your ability to do X or react to Y, you’ll still get variations on the old favorites: greatest strengths, challenges you’ve overcome, long-term aspirations, etc.
It may not be exciting to rattle off the same type of answer five or ten times, but I promise you: each time you do it, you’ll get better at it.
A whole different skill set
We often think that our success in interviews is based on our qualifications.
I’m an expert, so I’m bound to get the job!
This might be true if they know you – and if you work in a highly specialized, world-renowned faculty – but for the overwhelming majority of the time, your interview serves a completely different purpose.
An interview is just a snapshot and a brief test to see if you’re a person that they want.
Your resume and your achievements got you in the door – but it will be your interview performance that gets you into the other room.
And with any type of “performance,” what’s the best way to improve?
So make a map of all the recruitment agencies in your town or city, and hit every single one of them up for some practice interviews.
Who knows? All of those practice interviews might even get you a job through a recruiter.
And isn’t getting a job the real goal?
Have you ever used a staffing agency to practice interviews? How did they go? Tell us in the comments!