The “Dummy Interview”

Robyn Lamb, RCV founder, Cape Town

November 21 2017

Robyn and Vuyo of RCV International, a Cape Town recruitment agency have been helping a friend, Lisa prepare for a big job interview. They have helped her prepare to answer likely interview questions and this week turn to sharpening her performance in the interview.

‘The dummy interview is an effective way of readying yourself for the real thing.’ Robyn begins. ‘It’s a simulation of the actual interview in which you role-play the interviewed candidate. The dummy interviewer may be a friend or your mum or dad, forced reluctantly into the role and reading your prepared questions from the other side of the dining room table. It doesn’t matter. Somehow the practice of acting your part beforehand ‒ from entering the room in your interview outfit, shaking hands, seating yourself and answering your questions ‒ seems to iron out a lot of the nervousness problems most people have when being interviewed.’

‘But’ cautions Vuyo, ‘because it’s not the real interview, don’t give in to the temptation to fool about. You know, the ‘interviewer’ suddenly asking an outrageous question that makes you both giggle for the rest of the interview. This is a proper rehearsal and you must keep to your questions. They are your script.

To get maximum benefit from a dummy interview, record it, or as we do at RCV International, have it videoed from the moment that you enter the room. Afterwards you and your ‘interviewer’ play back the recording and pick out the weak spots in your performance. You go through those bits again and again until you and the ‘interviewer’ are satisfied you’ve got over whatever the problem was ‒ speech hesitancy, annoying repetition of a phrase or word such as “ you know” “like”, voice flat and expressionless or voice fading away etc. Yes, you need a patient friend or relative as some of those habits are very ingrained and you’ll require several run- throughs to get rid of them.’

‘The flat and expressionless voice is probably the worst trait you can bring to an interview,’ says Robyn. ‘Nothing is more off putting for an interviewer than having a candidate answer a question such as “What aspects of publishing do you most enjoy” in an empty, wooden voice. If the question requires animation and enthusiasm as this one does, you’ve just got to get that across with your voice, expression and body language. Your eyes must shine and they will if you describe what you truly enjoy.

Maintaining eye contact with the person you are talking to of course is hugely important but this does not mean staring intensely and unblinkingly, which can seem creepy or aggressive to the other person. If the ‘interviewer’ in the dummy interviewer tells you that you are staring too much, try the triangle trick of focussing on one eye for five seconds, on the other for five seconds and then to the chin without moving anything but your eyes. This will stop your eye contact from becoming too brazen and will also give the impression that you are also considering what is being said.’

‘Phew’ said Lisa, ‘a lot to find out about myself and get right especially if my voice is empty or wooden and I nail people with my hard stare.’

Next week, RCV International go over the final preparations for the interview.

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