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Business Education | Interview Skills | Professionalism

How to Run a Mock Interview with Your Students

June 7th, 2023 | 15 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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Mock interviews are preparatory scenarios in which teachers give students the chance to experience a job interview in a safe, constructive, and familiar space before they start their careers.

Mock interviews are cheered as being one of the most effective tactics in a career readiness curriculum because they have such a practical impact on students’ futures.

Students who experience a mock interview can learn how to dress, speak, and answer classic interview questions. 

So how are you supposed to conduct mock interviews in the first place?

Fortunately, the most successful educators have mapped out what’s needed for a successful mock interview already!

On this page, you’ll learn eight ways to run a successful mock interview:

  1. Set a time
  2. Note your first impression
  3. Note what the student brings
  4. Note their attire
  5. Ask behavior-based questions
  6. Note silence
  7. Discuss pay
  8. Debrief one-on-one

Let’s start with setting a time.

1. Set a Time (and Note When Students Arrive)


When you set up mock interviews for your students, the time is crucial to discuss.

The time is not a “ballpark” estimation of when the interview will start. It’s a hard deadline dictating that a student needs to be in the employer’s building, ready to start.

You can also take this time to discuss the importance of arriving to interviews early. Human resources representatives and hiring managers almost never start their interviews early, and it’s sometimes a challenge for them to arrive to interviews on-time themselves.

But your student, as the interviewee, doesn’t have the luxury of being late.

In fact, they don’t even have the luxury of making it “on time.”

The best time to arrive to a job interview is generally considered to be 15 minutes early.

This allows the company to note that your student has arrived for the interview, it lets your student collect their thoughts before the interview, and it shows the employer that your student is serious about pursuing the open position.

In your mock interview, it’s up to you to hold your students to these lofty standards of punctuality!

If a student arrives late to your interview, note it and reinforce why it’s so important that they arrive to an interview early.

It may not sound important — but it can make or break a student’s chances against other qualified candidates!

2. Note Your First Impression


When your students arrive to your mock interview, you have the challenging task of interacting with them as if it’s the first time you’ve met.

This is difficult for many teachers because your career demands a high degree of empathy to walk the line between helping students and having them help themselves.

In this instance, it’s up to you to observe several key qualities that contribute to a professional first impression:

  • How the student introduces themselves
  • Whether they shake hands
  • Their eye contact
  • Their verbal articulation
  • Their body language
  • Any visible cues that might show they’re nervous

These are only six small examples of what you can observe in a first impression. You may have a dozen more that you can discuss with your students!

The whole point of a mock interview is for students to get feedback about their performance so they can improve during the real thing.

The more you can talk about the specifics of your first impression, the better they’ll do in the future!

3. Note What They Bring


In addition to noting a student’s first impression, it’s important for you to notice what they bring to the interview.

Interviewees typically arrive to job interviews with a handbag or messenger bag that contains a handful of key items, including:

  • Extra resumes
  • Pens
  • Note paper

These items matter because they show that a student has prepared for the interview to an extreme degree.

Not only do they have the equipment for taking notes, but they’re also able to show anyone a copy of their resume to ensure it’s constantly on-hand at any time!

With this in mind, it’s generally important for students not to have their phones visible at any point during the interview — even before the interview starts.

By bringing appropriate materials to a job interview and leaving nonessential items out of the picture, your students will be able to enter any job interview with their best foot forward.

4. Note Their Attire


A student’s attire plays an enormous role in the success of their interview.

While this idea is arguably a superficial method of evaluating a job candidate, the fact is that interviewers look at how interviewees dress.

Clean, crisp attire requires preparation, consideration, and planning to do properly. Interviewers know this, which is why they so often use personal dress to evaluate someone’s work ethic or cultural fit in an organization.

Generally speaking, there are two acceptable ways for your students to dress for a mock interview:

  • Business formal
  • Business casual

Business formal is often viewed as matching pants and jackets for men.

For women, business formal can also mean matching pants and jackets. Women’s corporate formalwear can also include matching skirts and jackets, single-color dresses, and button-down blouses. 

Overall, business formal is the most preferred dress for interviews because it makes such a striking and strong first impression.

Business casual, as the name implies, reflects a more relaxed form of attire that still appears professional.

For men, this can include short-sleeve polo shirts, long-sleeve button-down shirts, and jackets. Men can also get away with a finer pair of slacks or khakis that go with darker-colored tops.

For women, business causal includes blouses, button-down tops, pants, skirts, blazers, and close-toed shoes.

Basically, if students don’t know what to wear for an interview, they can start by avoiding the clothing that they wear to be with their friends or families.

Jeans, sweatpants, legging, and T-shirts are all inappropriate interview attire.

If students wear any of those items to their mock interview, you know where to start when you give them feedback!

5. Ask Behavior-Based Questions


With your observational notes done, it’s time to jump into the meat of the mock interview — the questions!

In the past, many employers asked standardized questions like “Where do you see yourself in five years?” to gauge the quality of a job prospect.

However, that’s changing in today’s technology-fueled workforce.

Today, employers are asking questions about individuals’ behaviors, even if those job candidates are applying for entry-level positions.

Interviewers do this because they want an understanding about how an interviewee operates under pressure or presented with different challenges.

These questions typically don’t result in short answers — students must be prepared to tell stories that illustrate how they overcame obstacles, solved problems, and helped others in their own lives.

Depending on the employer, an interviewer in a face-to-face interviewer may not focus much on the actual job in question. Instead, they may use the in-person interview as a chance to learn more about your student’s character.

After all, they saw the job candidate’s resume and decided to bring them in for an interview.

From the perspective of the employer, the hard part is figuring out which job prospect is the best fit for the company and the least likely to hurt the company.

As the mock interviewer, this gives you access to a laundry list of questions, like:

  • Tell me about a time you ran into a challenge in life
  • When was the last time you dealt with a difficult person?
  • Why do you want to work with this company, specifically?

But this is just the beginning! Each of these questions opens the door to half a dozen other questions that employers use to better understand job candidates.

After a student answers each question, an interviewer may follow up with:

  • Who was involved?
  • What happened?
  • Where did this take place?
  • When did all of this occur?
  • How did you handle the situation?
  • What was the outcome?

Students will be expected to explain more details about a situation for all of these questions.

It requires a lot of mental agility and a lot of courage to disclose some of this information. But when students can articulate details in this way, it leaves employers with a strong sense of who that student is, what they believe, and how they’d behave on the job.

In other words, this method is one of the best ways that interviewers have to hire new candidates!

6. Note Silence


Prolonged silence is one of the most difficult and uncomfortable challenges that students can encounter.

Long silences are generally interpreted as an interviewee searching their minds for an answer and coming up dry.

If that’s the case, it’s almost always better for interviewees to admit that they don’t have an answer than to stay silent for too long.

Prolonged silence can give the impression that an interviewee is figuring out how to make up an answer instead of giving an honest one.

And if a student gives the impression that they’re lying or uncertain during an interview, it can be hard to bounce back successfully!

If you notice your students staying quiet after you ask them questions, it’s smart to note it so you can discuss it after the mock interview concludes.

That can lead you to learn why the student was quiet, what may have distracted them, and how they can handle scenarios like that in the future.

In other words, it can make all the difference as to whether that student lands a job! 

7. Discuss Pay


Discussing pay is notoriously uncomfortable in a job interview scenario, but it happens in every single interview.

This is important because employers want to know how much someone expects to get in return for their work.

Generally speaking, more experience on the part of the interviewee means more pay from the employer.

Interviewees have a notoriously hard time coming up with an exact number for their pay because they don’t want to sound greedy, but they also want to provide for themselves and their families.

That leaves interviewees in a tricky situation.

Do they come off as greedy or cocky and ask for more than they think they need?

Or do they ask for more so that they can do the right thing and help the ones they love?

Surprisingly, one of the best ways to get through this part of an interview is for the job prospect to say a number and see how the employer responds.

If the employer asks why, then the interviewee can give reasons.

If the employer moves onto the next part of the interview, then the interviewee has nothing left to say.

To help students in this area, you can actually show them how much professionals earn in the positions they’re seeking.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains data on average salaries or hourly wages for just about every single occupation in the country.

If nothing else, those statistics provide students with a strong starting point when they’re asked about salary requirements!

It’s also important to note that this is typically the last question an interviewer will ask.

Once you ask it in the mock interview, you can shake hands, dismiss the student, and conclude the event.

But there’s still one important part of the mock interview left!

8. Debrief One-on-One


The last part of any mock interview is the debrief.

Debriefing means you bring the student back into the interview area and discuss the interview with them.

Some good questions to ask are:

  • How do you think you did?
  • What do you think you did well?
  • What do you think you did poorly?
  • How do you think you can improve?
  • Is there anything you need from me to improve?

After asking these questions, it’s time to dive into your feedback.

Students should take notes on what you say because it’s going to be the crux of how they improve themselves in the future.

It’s important to note that this process can also be painful for students, especially those who have never experienced this type of feedback.

That’s why it’s so important to ease into this section of the mock interview.

Give students the chance to breathe, ask you follow-up questions, and dig into the fine details of what they can do better.

To start, you can tell them your notes on their:

  • Timeliness
  • Conduct
  • Attire
  • Preparation
  • Body language
  • Answers
  • Justification for compensation

Some students may not make it through this feedback session in one emotional piece. Some may even tear up, especially if they think they did well in the mock interview but then get a lot of notes on how to improve.

Nevertheless, it’s crucial that they hear this feedback from you.

It’s the only way they’ll nail their real job interviews on their first tries!

Prep Your Students for Their Careers

Mock interviews are just one part of an overall career readiness curriculum.

If you’re looking to get your students ready for the workplace, you could create all of your interview lesson plans and resources from scratch.

You could also try something different!

At iCEV, we develop a comprehensive curriculum system for CTE career readiness and business education teachers throughout the United States. The system comes with fully customizable courses and media-rich lessons to ensure your students are ready for certifications and career opportunities.

Is iCEV right for your program? Visit the Career Exploration curriculum page to learn more. You can explore iCEV courses to help you decide if they're best for your students.

Discover the iCEV Career Exploration Curriculum