Different types of mock interview that can help prepare art, design and media students for their real interview.

Why do mock interviews? There are many ways to help students develop interview skills. They can participate in presentations, discussions, critiques and tutorials. All of these facilitate the development of transferable skills that students can use in interview. Being able to talk about their work, experiments and ideas is possibly the most useful skill a student can develop.

Interviews create their own particular kind of experience, students won’t know the person they are talking to, so they need to be able to discuss their attitude and personality as well as the work, asking questions and sounding committed to being creative at the same time. One of the only ways to give them a taste of that kind of experience is to provide them with a mock interview. There are potentially as many variations on mock interviews as there are lecturers.

Whole team interview

This is a really effective method of providing the same kind of pressure as there would be in a real interview. Having a large panel will provide different perspectives on feedback for the student. Another benefit is that it could be used as a live assessment tool with immediate standardisation taking place. However, it can be very difficult to pull a team together for such a long exercise, especially if it is a large group.

Class interview

The idea is that the whole class take it in turns to interview one person in a controlled environment. Lecturers can provide prompts to the group through a handout. A real benefit is that students then get to see a wide range of portfolios and repeat the experience of an interview many times. One of the major downsides to this structure is the seriousness the class gives to it, any small level of distraction from student observers can really upset the student being interviewed. However, it can be successful for more confident learners and those in higher levels of programme. Another issue is the amount of time it takes away from productive study time. This method could be used in conjunction with another method. For example, a confident student could be interviewed by the whole group and then the rest of the students could be interviewed using a different method.

Guest interviewer

In this method, each student is interviewed by the lecturer and someone they don’t know. Having an unknown person on the panel gives the situation a heightened sense of formality and really adds to the experience. It can be difficult to find someone willing to contribute so much time. If it could be someone from industry that would be ideal, but there is also the opportunity to invite someone from the careers service to help out.

Colleague interview

Inviting colleagues that don’t teach on the team to interview students in your class is a very simple way of providing some realism to the interview situation. An advantage of this kind of method is that the favour can be returned for their class. Simply having someone new in the room that the students haven’t had a long working relationship with means they can’t count on the rapport and security they are used to. This method can be combined with other methods, for example there is no reason a colleague couldn’t come in and interview using the whole class method.

Lecturer and Tutor interview panel

If the roles of lecturer and tutor are separated out at your school or college then it might be really useful to team up on the interview panel. Students can then get input from both a personal and pastoral viewpoint and also from a lecturer’s perspective. Another benefit of this is that the tutor may not have seen much of their work or really have a clear awareness of their creative potential without actually seeing their work.

Second year students interview first year students

If the course is a two year programme, there is potential for higher level students to interview lower level students. The more experienced students gain a range of skills and shouldn’t just treat it like time out of their normal study. Simply discussing the creative cycle and identifying creative solutions in others’ work is really valuable. The lower level students will benefit from the seriousness that comes from wanting their contemporaries to be impressed with their work.

Peer interview

One way that saves a lot of time is to facilitate peer interviews. Students are put into groups or pairs and use a list of questions to interview each other. If the students are aware of the importance of the task then they will take it reasonably seriously, but there is a risk that they don’t make the most out of the situation without strong input from the lecturer. One of the main disadvantages of this is the lack of feedback from the lecturer the students get, but the process can serve as good practice for the mock interview.

Careers service interview

Many schools and colleges will have a careers team whose role it is to support students in progression into professional practice. They will often provide the service of mock interviews, which means that the course team do not have to lose precious contact time. One of the disadvantages is that the careers team usually support all kinds of progression and may not have in depth awareness of the interview process within the arts. While they may not have been through art school, it doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to give useful feedback to the student. Interviews don’t have to just be about artwork, they can also be about personality and transferable skills and if students are able to recognise and discuss these then they will benefit. You may be able to provide the careers service with a list of questions you want them to ask the students in interview.

Self-assessed interviews

Self-assessment can be difficult as people are often not aware of their own behavioural traits, such as body language or vocabulary, that they use all the time. One idea is to video the interview so that students can watch themselves presenting. If they were higher level or more confident learners, there is no reason why this video couldn’t be watched by peers who could also feedback.

Daniel Freaker Daniel Freaker Educational Consultant, Painter, Writer, Designer danfreaker@processfreaks.com