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Sometimes I feel like when I over prepare for an interview, I end up stumbling over my words. How do I practice but not sound rehearsed or robotic?

Office Hours #3: All About Interviews: The STAR Method with Judy Park

This question was posed by a question during one of our most recent "CareerVillage Office Hours" sessions. During Office Hours sessions, we invite students to pose questions related to a specific topic. In this case, the topic was job interviews. If you answer this question, we will reach out to the students who attended this office hours session to inform them of your response, and all students on CareerVillage will benefit. If you would be interested in hosting an office hours session on a particular topic, please reach out to our staff!

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Judy Park's answer: Give yourself a chance to do a mock interview with your friends. Try to get a recording (both video and audio) so you can see if you seem stiff or robotic. Make sure you're telling a story! Use your facial expressions and gestures. Show that you're excited/proud of your experience. Think about body movement, pauses, expressions, tones etc. There are infinite ways to express yourself! CV Office Hours .

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Kim’s Answer

A couple of ideas.

One, quit over-practicing! Do NOT write out the answers you expect to give to certain questions. The questions that they give you won't be exactly as you prepared for, so, the answers might not fit exactly without needing to modify them. So, instead, practice with concepts.
Leadership - how do you demonstrate this trait? You could work from an outline, and turn the concepts into sentences as you speak.
Example:
Leadership
1. go-to person
2. chair committees
3. student gov't
4. team captain

Do the same for questions such as what type of supervisor you prefer and why, giving examples:
1. Joe - Micromanager
2. Frances - laid back, encouraged problem-solving

Be prepared to address all the regular questions, and become good at using the STAR format -it really works well! But DON'T say the same thing over and over when practicing. Find different ways of saying it, again, NOT writing down sentences, just an outline. Familiarize yourself with the company's on-line content. Have a few of your life experiences that you want to hit on to demonstrate things such as how you deal with difficult customers, team-work, disagreeing with your supervisor, etc.

Land an interview for a position/with a company that you don't really want. Try going in without over-preparing. Just be yourself, and speak naturally. Doing this can help instill confidence, and reduce the urge that we all feel to prepare, prepare, prepare!

Also, once you are "prepared" for an interview, take a break. Workout, go for a walk, do yoga, whatever. Something to clear your mind, relax your body. Briefly review any area of weakness prior to the interview.

It may not work for everyone, but, it does work for some people. It's worth a try.
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Justin’s Answer

First, let's acknowledge that interviews can be incredibly stressful and nerve wracking...and that's before the interview even happens! That said, here are a few things that I've learned along the way in my own career:

1) Have a good intro: It is important to be able to introduce yourself in a way that is informative yet concise. It should be a mix of a little personal (where you're from, what you studied, etc) with a very short . It's even better if you can link your experiences to what got you to that point today (e.g. - I'm here talking to you about this role because of my experiences in "x" which taught me "y" about myself and my passions).

2) Focus on themes: Rather than trying to memorize exact wording for very specific questions, it's generally better to think about the themes that you want to emphasize about yourself during your time together. The themes might be based on your passion for a topic which suits the role well, experiences either in work or life that will help you excel in the role or even a personal story that highlights strengths of yours. Once you have those themes, you want to be sure that by the time the interview finishes, that you've made points about these themes at some point during the talk. Just so you're not overwhelmed or overwhelm your interviewer, I would generally recommend that you have three themes or major points you want to be sure to make during the interview

3) It's a conversation! While the interviewer(s) is certainly the one asking most of the questions (see below), many of the best interviews are simply conversations between people instead of a one-sided Q&A session. A common pitfall for folks is to hype themselves up too much or stress themselves out about the person who is interviewing them - treat them as a person with whom you are having a first conversation! I am certainly not recommending that you speak as if you are talking to your closest friend (you definitely want to keep the conversation respectful!), but assume that the interviewer is genuinely interested in learning about you and figuring out why you would be a great person for the role.

4) Have a couple questions ready: You will almost always have the opportunity to ask one or two questions at the end. Have a couple ready that demonstrate preparation and interest in either the Company or the person interviewing you. Examples can be as simple as "Can you describe a typical day for you? " all the way to "How does your work or the work in this role ladder into the broader goals and strategy of the Company?"

Best of luck!

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Brayden’s Answer

Hello!
I wouldn't say that having some type of written document/ script for an interview is considered bad. Although you don't want to sound like a robot with no enthusiam having some type of script to help guide your thoughts and ideas during an interview is smart to have. During an interview your emotions are going to be high and its okay to be a little worried. It shows that you are human and that shows the importance of the meeting to you. The best way to practice/ help prepare is to write some potential questions that could be asked. By then answering these questions this will help you be more comfortable if a similar of question is asked. Another great way to practice is in a natural environment. Somewhere even like the shower is a great place to rehearse because you haven't put yourself into the mind set of being in the interview so theres no stress. Another great tip of an interview is that when a question is asked, take just a second and gather your thoughts about your response before you answer. These few seconds will allow you to put the best answer forward.
In the end truly the best way to get better at interviews is to practice, practice, practice. Doing lots of mock interviews and talking with more people is really the best way rain comfort within interviews. Hope this information helps. Good luck on your interview!
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Jan-Michael’s Answer

Simplest answer is to play to your own strengths and not to a perceived ideal that you want to act toward.
If you can, think of it as a conversation, like dating where the point of the interaction is to see whether there's a good fit for both sides.

Not an asymmetric exchange (at least in your mind) where You are to pass an assessment. Understand that is often more difficult said than done, but hence the practice. You would want to highlight your existing strengths and potential areas of development and connect the dots to why all those brings a mutual benefit.
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Fernando’s Answer

Practice the interview with friends or families. Sometimes guidance counselors are willing to help you out with practice interviews. The other is to not treat the interview as a class presentation, but rather treat it as a conversation. The interviewer is there to get to know you as a person, your resume already gives them a good idea of how you are in a professional sense. Some times a bit of small talk between you and the interviewer can go a long way of showing your social skills which are invaluable in most work environments. Just don't over board with the small talk, keep short and sweet.
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Les’s Answer

Private notes from a Headhunter – Proven Job Search and Interviewing Techniques for College Students and Recent Grads
1. What would you expect from me if I were to work for you in this job? How would my performance be measured?
2. What kind of support I can expect to help me realize the goals that you would set for me?
3. Would you please describe the company culture for me as you see it?
4. You obviously like working for this company. Can you tell me why?
5. What in your opinion makes new hires that work for you successful in their jobs?
6. What is a typical day like for this internship?
7. What is the most important thing a new hire working for you can do to be successful?
8. What are the things that you most admire in an employee?
9. If you were to hire me, what’s the most important thing I could do for you in the first 90 days on the job?
10. If you hire me, and in the course of doing my job I suggest an idea that would help me do my job better and get better results, would you consider it?
11. This has been an excellent interview from my perspective, and I would like to ask you at this point; Do you think I can do this job? I DO!
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Dawnyale’s Answer

Practicing is always a good start, but don't underestimate the importance of non-verbal communication as well. Smiling, laughing (when appropriate) and watching your posture is important too. I would mock interview with friends/family first, then with professionals you trust. Then, get feedback from them about your responses and demeanor.

I wouldn't over-practice as it has the ability to box you into certain answers and not leave room for probing questions. When answering questions, it's okay to ask for a moment to think about it if you need it and answer it it a way that fully address the questions. Also, it's great to have questions for your interviewer. It's great if they're organic, formed based off of information the interviewer shared. But it's a good idea to also have some questions prepared based off of your research of the company.

Good luck to you!
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Alanna’s Answer

Wonderful question!

Practicing for each part of the interview requires different guidelines. I would break out a generic interview into the following categories: Introductions, Resume Review, General Q&A, and Closing Questions.

Introductions:
Best way to approach this phase of the interview is to be confident and friendly. You can practice this by just practicing small talk. If you are out to get a coffee, spend an extra minute or so just chatting with the barista. The more comfortable you are with talking to strangers about a whole lot of nothing, the better!

Resume Review (if applicable, sometimes they will jump right into Q&A):
Best practice here is KNOW YOUR RESUME. Be able to speak to anything you have on it whether it be a job, community service, a skill, or an interest. For example, if you have "travelling" as an interest on your resume, you should feel comfortable talking about your travel experience and where you would love to go next and why. These are little prep items you can do beforehand that would not be memorization but just building your level of comfort with your resume. Have a friend read your resume and ask you a question or two, unscripted. See if you can answer them. If not, ask yourself why that is and if it should be on your resume at all then.

General Q&A:
When your interviewer does not start with your resume, there is a VERY strong likelihood that they will say: "Tell me about yourself." This is the best question to prepare for because someone will ask it! For this, start to develop your "elevator pitch" and get comfortable with it. When constructing it, only focus on key bullets / points, not full sentences. This way you can memorize what you want to hit without falling into that "robotic" pattern. Also it is ok if you forget one or two of your bullets (the interviewer will never know!). Also be sure to keep this shorter. You don't have to tell your whole life story in the first 5 minutes of the interview. It should feel like a conversation; keep it short, punchy, and to the point. For the rest of the questions they ask you, there is no real way to prep. Yes, you can have your "What are your strengths and weaknesses" questions ready to go, but the rest of Q&A should, again, feel like a conversation, not a rehearsed play. For me, I find it better to make myself as comfortable as possible by this stage of the interview instead of trying (and stressing) to remember the rehearsed answers I had. I also find it helpful to have two or three specific events ready to go to give examples of "a time when I..." Even though I don't have the exact question, having diverse experiences ready to go and draw from is SUPER helpful. And when in doubt, you can ALWAYS take a moment to pause and think about your response.

Closing Questions:
Simple, have one or two questions ready to go prior to the interview and have them written down (bring them with you). Do some research on the company / position before hand and ask specific questions. This is a great time to show you have done your homework and you have knowledge of the company. Also during the session, if you find yourself having a question on something the interviewer said, write it down. This would be a great time to ask it (and this shows you valued their feedback and paid attention to their responses). For this section, try to stay away from generic questions. Asking a truly good question could make your interview.

AND make sure to ALWAYS end your interview with a clear idea of next steps and timeline (you can ask especially if you have multiple interviews), and their EMAIL so you can send a thank you note after the interview / follow up with additional questions. Again... ALWAYS SEND A THANK YOU NOTE!

Hope this helps! Good luck and happy interviewing!
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Christopher’s Answer

Great question! One thing I would suggest is just being more relaxed. One thing that always helps to not sound robotic is remembering to smile! some how it totally tricks your brain!
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Sanober’s Answer

View the interview as a conversation rather than a "Q & A" format. The interviewer will ask you questions, but the ball is in your court in terms of how you take the question. The answer you give can be formatted in a genuine way instead of robotic if you just come to the interview with stories you want to tell. For example, you can have experiences you want to highlight in the interview, and you can do that even if you aren't asked about it directly by threading it into your answers. That way, it seems authentic and less practiced.

Hope this helps :)

Sanober
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