Why You Should Get a Friend to Interview You
The interview tip that changed how I prepare forever
There’s something taboo about preparing for interviews. It almost feels naughty, as if you’re cheating and not being yourself. I think a part of it comes from thinking you’re being inauthentic if you prepare. You don’t prepare for a coffee chat with a friend, so why should you prepare for an interview?
Preparing can also say “I’m not good enough, so I need to prepare.” It’s a dangerous mindset because we all intuitively know that preparing for an interview will give you a better chance of getting the job.
Preparing makes rejection hurt more. If you don’t prepare, you can say to yourself “I didn’t care about the job anyway, that’s why I didn’t prepare for it.” If you do prepare, you’ll have to admit you cared, tried, and failed.
I was lucky to discover the stupidity of this no-preparation approach when I was young. I walked into interviews without preparation and I couldn’t even answer the simplest questions like “tell me about yourself” — at least not to the standard I wanted to answer them.
It felt like walking into a battlefield naked when everyone else was wearing a suit of armor and equipped with a battleax. I couldn’t compete in the interview even if I was the better candidate for the job.
I decided to prepare for interviews. I couldn’t trust the system to find the best candidate; the interview system isn’t perfect. They can’t interview every person who sends a resume and put them on a trial for the role with perfect metrics to track performance. Interviewers need to come to conclusions from incomplete data. Make your incomplete data show the best parts of yourself.
I’ve done a lot of interviews. I was a university student trying to get experience and was in a position to apply for entry-level jobs in professional industries like consulting, software engineering and design.
I tried a lot of things to prepare. I tried giving myself positive affirmations in the mirror; I tried sleeping and waking up early; I tried waking up late and rushing; I tried fasting; I tried writing down every question I could think of and answering them; I tried walking around my house memorizing my answers to the questions; I tried walking around outside in the cold reciting answers because I thought it would make me remember it better; I tried modafinil; I tried microdosing LSD which actually worked sort of okay; I tried preparing stories instead of answers to questions because I couldn’t prepare for every question they gave up; I tried being brutally honest about who I was and how I saw the company; I tried lying and sucking up to the company…
Some things worked; others didn’t.
If there was one thing that changed the game for me, it would be getting a friend to interview me.
I don’t think many people do this; barely any of my university friends do it. I think one reason for this is the vulnerability of a friend knowing your interview answers. Your friend who interviews you will see you from a new perspective — a professional perspective. They’ll probably ask you whether you received a job offer or not as well. If you failed, it’ll now be public.
The first time my friend asked if I wanted him to interview me, I said yes. I really wanted the job. I sometimes wonder: if I was younger and didn’t have a growth mindset, would I still have said yes? I’m not sure. I hope I would’ve taken the opportunity, but the vulnerability might’ve been too much to handle.
Right after the practice interview, it became obvious to me that this is possibly the best interview tip ever. If you want to simulate a real interview as closely as possible, get someone to interview you! I don’t know why I never thought of it before; probably because I was scared.
The ideal simulation would be to have your actual interviewer practice with you, but that’s impossible. The disadvantage of having a friend do it is that you might not take it seriously, so you need a friend who can be serious.
I joke, prank and banter, but if someone asked me to interview them, I’ll be serious until it’s over. I know how hard interviews can be.
One way to be serious is to set rules. The most important one is: No talking as friends during the interview. No person can laugh. No person can say “Omg, this is too hard” or “I can’t answer this question.” You can only say things you would say in a real interview.
If you know what questions they’re going to ask, then you don’t need any help with questions. If you don’t, go to Glassdoor and search up interview questions for the role and company they’re looking for.
Otherwise, here are some common questions you can use:
- Tell me about yourself.
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What are you passionate about?
Role and company:
- Why do you want this role?
- Why do you want to join this company?
- Why did you choose X over Y?
- What achievement are you most proud of?
- What’s your biggest strength/weakness?
- What would someone who doesn’t like you say about you?
- Tell me about a time you worked with people with differing perspectives.
- Tell me about a time you had too many tasks and had to prioritize.
- Tell me about a time you failed.
- You see a colleague stealing from work for the second time. What do you do?
- Your manager demands you stay overtime, but you already have family commitments. What do you do?
- Your colleague is presenting and being praised for work that was yours. What do you do?
The interviewer should have a notebook or laptop to write down notes and a rating for each answer. You can choose your own rating system like 1–10, but I use the following to give qualitative feedback:
- Strong fail
- Weak fail
- Weak pass
- Strong pass
Interviewing can be painful, but getting the job you want makes it worth it. There are a lot of interview tips out there and I could talk about what I do for hours. If you’re going to do one thing, I recommend this.
Practice might not make perfect, but it at least makes better.