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Lorna Froud. Oxford Brookes University. Brief Encounter . - a short mock interview. Designed and completed to address an English Subject Centre’s skills enhancement programme for students. Brief Encounter - a short mock interview. Introduction

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Brief Encounter

- a short mock interview

Designed and completed to address an English Subject Centre’s skills enhancement programme for students

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs


Brief Encounter - a short mock interview


This project grew out of a recognition that take-up from English field students for the various services offered by the Careers Centre at Oxford Brookes University was negligible. This led to a series of questions: How could we go about increasing our presence in this area? What would be of the most benefit to English field students? What would be of benefit to the Careers Centre and the services we provided?

It was noted that there was very little in the English field curriculum that referred to careers management and education; this largely being a result of a lack of enthusiasm for CMS (Careers Management Skills) from academics in this field, widely seen by students as “gatekeepers” to authentic sources of information and advice.

To tackle the above problems it was decided that English field students and the Careers Centre at Oxford Brookes University would gain the most value and experience by conducting a mock interview programme, utilising the latest technology, and giving English students the opportunity of experiencing a practical exercise to improve their awareness of employability and CMS.

The report that follows summarises the rationale, structure, techniques used and outcomes (both quantitative and qualitative) of a successful programme of interviews, and offers a brief conclusion and set of recommendations based on the results obtained.

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs


Brief Encounter - a short mock interview

Why bother?

Students are expected to engage earlier with the job market in order to improve their employability and career management skills. Many courses now provide workshops or related training sessions on job-hunting skills that include CV design and effectiveness, interviews and selection centres. The problem remains, however, in students’ gaining relevant practical experience with interviews.

School of hard knocks

All too often, individual applicants improve their interview technique by a series of unfortunate experiences. Whereas they may have been taught about the interview process, the dynamical, interactive exchange that occurs between candidate and interviewer can only be improved upon by gaining experience. Which is unfortunate, given that for many candidates, their ideal job was the one they blew away in a poor interview.

The mock interview

In an ideal world, all students would have access to full length mock interviews, with feedback. In practice, this would mean careers centres - even if they did nothing else – couldn’t cope with demand. A shorter, more efficient process, with rapid learning potential gained from relevant, evidence-based feedback, is needed.

The process

A candidate describes briefly to a recruitment and selection expert the type of job for which they anticipate an interview. A short interview (8 – 10 minutes) follows, in which the candidate’s responses are recorded on a re-writable digital videodisk (DVD-RW). The interview is then played back directly to a portable flat screen monitor. Candidate and interviewer observe and discuss, with the candidate making short notes on a proforma feedback sheet. This is completed in 20 minutes. The candidate is then asked to complete an appraisal sheet, before departure: total time 30 minutes.


Up to 12 candidates can be accommodated in this manner in one day, including setting up and dismantling equipment. Interviews are re-recorded on the same DVD-RW, thereby consistently removing any record and protecting confidentiality.

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs

















Brief Encounter - a short mock interview

Candidate Booking Form

Please note that candidates should have a particular type of work in mind when they book a short mock interview. This will allow the interviewer to make the experience as realistic and therefore as useful as possible for the candidate.

Candidates should ensure they arrive five minutes before their booked interview. A session lasts 30 minutes and late arrivals cannot expect to undertake the process.


Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs


Brief Encounter – what I said and did in my mock interview

Use this sheet to make brief notes when viewing your interview and discussing it with the interviewer. There may be one or two points that you need to work on, but remember – no real interview could be worse than what you’ve just gone through, so build your confidence and perform!

first impressions

body language

eyes expression hands

arms legs sitting position


what I said

structure research evidence

repetitions mannerisms conviction

how I said it

hesitation umms & errs humour

pitch pace pauses

overall impression

confident? enthusiastic? smart?

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs


Brief Encounter - Evaluation Form

Please take a few minutes to let us know about your short mock interview experience by circling your closest response or providing brief notes.

1. How did you feel about interviews before the short mock session?

anxious nervous comfortable confident

2. How realistic did you find the short mock interview?

unrealistic artificial realistic involving

3. With reference to your feedback notes, what did you do well?

4. What could you have done better and will seek to improve?

5. In what ways did the short interview surprise you?

6.How many previous interview experiences have you had?

none one two three or more

7. Would you want to use the short mock interview to assess improvements after your first ‘real’ interview?

yes no

8.How do you now feel about interviews?

still anxious still nervous comfortable in control

9.How helpful did you find the short mock interview?

not at all slightly definitely extremely

10.In what ways could the short mock interview session be improved?

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs


Brief Encounter - a short mock interview


Both the quantitative and qualitative evaluations show how successful the mock interview experience was for students (from both English and non-English fields). Of English field students 75% felt the interview was “realistic”, with 25% finding it “involving” ; 90% replied that they would use the mock interview exercise to assess improvements after attending a real job interview. 45% of English students found the exercise “definitely helpful”, 55% “extremely helpful.

The qualitative evaluations highlight the usefulness of the exercise for students and careers professionals. The results show that English field students were happy with their levels of confidence, body language and the way they answered the questions. However, the evaluation sheets also show that English field students felt they could have spent more time on research and preparation – this despite the fact that on applications research was mentioned as being one of the key skills for the subject. Also, English field students had little idea as to what career paths were open to them as graduates; some found it difficult to match their skills and work experience with the answers required in a job interview setting.

The above results provide a valuable resource for careers professionals, highlighting once again the contingent nature of skills acquisition and transfer. English field students felt that they had acquired subject specific skills and work experience, but found it difficult to match these to good interview answers. This shows that there is an important place for careers education at the heart of any academic curriculum, focusing as it does on a crucial part of the lifecycle of any graduate, particularly for those with an Arts and Humanities background.

Directorate of Academic and Student Affairs