Taking a Real Life Practice Interview

I have been applying for jobs for the past eight months. I’ve redone my resume a couple of times and I’ve redone my cover letter more times than I can count. It has been a bit discouraging as no one has taken the bait. Well, let me rephrase that. I’ve gotten several calls from AFLAC recruiters and several banks asking me to come to their group interviews.

I just had a job interview last week. It was the first one in over two years and to be honest, I was a complete and utter wreck. I got a call on Saturday for an interview on Monday. There was very little time to pull myself together into a fully professional package. First, the easy items: conservative dress, printed directions, and reading up on the company.

Then I had to go over my resume once again. I am a graphic designer, so I had to make sure I was satisfied with the look of my resume. I also printed out a two-page printed portfolio along the same theme. While it’s important to have an online portfolio, don’t neglect having a printed version. If your prospective employer isn’t near a computer, it’s nice to have printed samples on hand to remember you by. I even took it a step further and packaged it all into some matching presentation folders I found at Office Depot. (If I had more time, I would have hand-made some folders.)

Here is what the final product looked like:

Once all of that was done, I went through my online portfolio only to find it was lacking in a few areas. Since I am not currently working on any projects that would fill them, I made them up. I built an entire website for an existing company and I did it in less than a day. It wasn’t finished before I had to go in for my interview, but it was close enough in that it had a little bit of everything that the employer was looking for.

I busted my butt for a job that I might not even get, but know that all of the effort will eventually pay off. It turns out that while I got a second interview, the company chose someone else. However, even though I’m bummed that I didn’t get that job, at least I have everything prepared for the next interview. My resumes are built and packaged; my online portfolio is much further along. I don’t know if I ever would have gotten that website finished if I hadn’t needed it for this interview.

During the interview, I was a mess, verbally speaking. I was so nervous that I think every other word out of my mouth was, “um.” As my luck runs, they asked me my least favorite interview question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” It always turns out that I have already mentioned my weaknesses at this point, so coming up with something on the spot without repeating myself is torturous. And then, once that part was over, there was a technical quiz. I should have known it was coming because when I do interviews, I sit you down at a computer and make you do a project in front of me. Overall, it went well. Even though I didn’t get the job, I’ve had a chance to brush up on my interviewing skills. So if you’re about to go on one, just take a deep breath. It’ll go quickly and won’t hurt a bit.

Anyone else have interviews coming up?

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Stephanie is a graphic designer who has managed art departments in the non-profit and corporate worlds. She is currently Work(ing)Awesome(ly) at home with her company Studio Lewis Graphic Design.


  1. ReveK on the 13th March


    I’m looking for a job, too. I mean, I have one, but wanna change. And your article made me feel a little better because… I’m a kind of mess, too, during interviews. I’m not in Graphic at all, as a quality coordinator, (desperately searching for a job with other things than quality to do as photography and graphic design, lol), but still. The point is the more interviews you get, the less messy you are. I’ve noticed that after 3 to 4… I’m good.
    Anyway. Good luck with your search. And keep posting !

  2. The Simple Machine on the 13th March

    I am sure lot of people have the same problem, especially when it is a job they really want. When I got my very first interview with Microsoft (I really wanted the job) and I remember it being a colossal mess up! At the end of it, I had sweat on my back!

    But over the years interviewing I have learnt how to handle interviews! One of the things that works for me is preparing stories and examples.

    Prepare up to 5 stories that you can use to answer a variety of questions. Use the SAR (Situation, Action and Result) approach to build your stories. Take control of the interview!

    I am in the process of writing posts about this topic over the next few days, but in the meanwhile you can check out how I got a 30% raise by jumping ship. I point out some of the things I did to get that.


    Hope this helps! If you need any help, shoot me an email! I can point you to a couple really good resources that have helped me along.

  3. Sakib on the 14th March

    sounds horrible. I even didn’t know that, instant exam or quiz to test out the expertise of the person just right there. So, on that time, if someone is deep pressure or tensed or feels nervous — s/he is going to lose the opportunity but if possible to show the performance, everything goes smooth and a possibility to get another call of appointment letter. isn’t it?

    hay! thanks for the great share. I’m loving the over all site and design is so cool

  4. Alex on the 14th March

    I have learned a lot about interviews. Did you practice doing the interview before doing that. I have found that it helps so much. I must say that I love the look of your portfolio. Ever think about starting a business based on making people’s portfolios? I think that would be great. Good luck on the job search. Maybe consider entrepreneurship 🙂

  5. Gabe on the 14th March

    Great post!

    I too have gone through very similar steps in prepping for interviews – design an awesome resume/cv/recommendation letter package for interviewers, new business card, website, interview Q&A prep – all to find out that the employer is going a ‘different way.’ So I understand the frustration of that and the celebration of – ‘Hey I actually got a lot of work completed and I’m raring to go for the next interview, when it happens!’

    Although I am not a graphic designer, I am in marketing and have been trying to find positions somewhere between account/brand management and creative direction. Luckily I had an interview a couple of weeks ago and received a call back for a second interview. In the first interview I provided some marketing collateral for the company I was interviewing to make myself stand out, now that the second interview is coming up (19th!) I’m brainstorming like crazy for a follow up act! Any general advice you could give for someone going on a second interview? Thanks!

  6. Julius on the 14th March

    I also think that another important thing to remember during job interviews is to research on the company before the actual day of the interview. This shows the company that you are genuinely interested to work for them and join their team.

  7. Pawel on the 6th March

    I’m preparing for an interview that will take a place on Tuesday… I’m a little bit nervous but it’s probably nothing comparing to what I’ll feel on Tuesday 🙂 It is a web development job. A job I really want to get. It would allow me to learn in a more dynamic manner, me around the people that share my interests and do something I love doing. I hope it will go well, but if not, then I know it will make me stronger in some way. I had an interview about a month ago and I have learned something. I’ll try not to make the same mistakes again 🙂

    Thanks for a great post 🙂

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