“Mock Interview Day” for Students at SIUE, Tips for Improvement

I received my bachelors degree from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE), and I regularly participate in my alma mater events to help the school and its students. A good learning experience for those who participate, SIUE’s “mock interview day” is an opportunity for students to gain an understanding for what it would be like to be interviewed for a job position. During the event, I was tasked to interview four candidates (students) with an hour designated for each individual. I ran through my interview - designed throughout the last four years of doing interviews - gives me a good idea of the interviewee's personality and technical knowledge. Interviewees also receive a head start and a snapshot into what their job search will involve.  

I interviewed three students with a computer management information systems (CMIS) degree path, and one in civil engineering. I started out with personality-based questions, then technical questions, and transitioned to coding on the whiteboard. The student with the civil background received more background questions in replacement of technical ones. All the students did well in appearance- and personality-based questions. They needed some improvement in the technical questions. which gives them something to work on.   

Staying Sharp 

The main tip I gave students was to be prepared for the interview, and know that every interview is different. They could encounter structured questions, skill based questions, and may even be ask questions that require coding on a whiteboard. It’s important to know what they may encounter so they can conduct the proper research and educate themselves prior to the interview. To help them prepare, I provided a list of sample questions that they could be asked. Some students don’t have a coding class every semester, which makes it more critical that they stay sharp.  I suggested that individuals make time for an internship, and make time to code outside of the classroom. Taking the time to learn outside of the classroom will expose students to different coding languages, and other developing tools. Taking part in small tutorials is a minor component, but could be enough to excel them to learn some new information. This will prepare them better for the kinds of jobs that are available.  

Calming the Nerves 

The students asked many good questions such as: “What's a typical work day?”, “What do you suggest I do to be more prepared?”, How can I improve?”, “What should I do if companies don't call me back?”, “Should I send a follow up letter?”, and my favorite question of the day being, "How do you handle being nervous in an interview?" because I'm always nervous going into an interview. I even get nervous giving interviews. It was funny to me to hear feedback that took place on the other side of the table, and to know that interviewees dealt with the similar nervousness that I always have. For me, the nerves will never go away, so I have to be more prepared to mitigate them. While giving the interview, I try to focus on the questions, and continue to adapt my questions as the interview progresses. I thought that by letting the students know that I get nervous just like them is something to keep in mind, to help them relax, before or during their next interview.  

I enjoyed how eager students were to learn about in order to improve, and their general overall interest regarding learning how interviews are conducted during the job-seeking process. The students asked good questions, and it was fun to talk with them. By taking part in “Mock Interview Day,” my goal was to help students prepare for actual interviews in hopes to help them discover their “perfect” job.