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Do AI Interview Prep Tools Work?

by THEA kelley | April 26, 2024

Can artificial intelligence help you ace your next job interview? In this post I’ll give you my expert take—as an interview coach, not an AI guru!—on how to use AI to prepare for an interview, including notes on my tryouts of five well-known AI interview prep tools.

Advantages of AI Interview Prep Tools

As I see it, AI interview preparation tools offer two significant advantages:

  • They’re available for free or at low cost.
  • There’s no need for an appointment; you can use these tools anytime, anywhere.

Disadvantages of AI Interview Prep Tools

In some ways, “you get what you pay for.” In my humble opinion, machines still aren’t quite as smart, flexible and accommodating as a human interview coach or mock interviewer. Here’s my view of the downsides.

The example answers offered by AI tools are helpful as guidelines, but are bland and a bit stiff.

Writing in Harvard Business Review, an AI expert and professor of psychology shared the following suggested answer from ChatGPT to the question “Do you enjoy working with others?”

I do enjoy working with others. Collaboration can lead to innovative solutions and a richer work environment. I appreciate diversity in thought and perspective because it often brings fresh ideas to the table. While I may have my own opinions and values, I believe in open communication and constructive discussions to find common ground and reach our goals together. In the end, I believe that working as a team allows us to achieve more than we could individually.

To my ear, this answer sounds correct but not very authentic. It’s also boring, although it might give you ideas for developing your own authentic answer.

My own approach as a coach would be different: Rather than starting with a generic sample answer, I’d start by listening to the job seeker’s own words, then help them polish their answer as needed.

AIs are known for “hallucinating.”

In other words, they sometimes make up nonsense. In the HBR review, the author warned,

Don’t assume that all information provided is bulletproof. Treat anything you learn – good or bad – with a pinch of salt and healthy degree of skepticism . . . Treat GenAI as another tool in your toolkit. Use it to the degree that it is useful.

Some AI tools only analyze written answers. 

There is some value in getting feedback on your written answers, but this approach doesn’t reflect how real interviews take place, nor how interviewers make decisions.

You’ve probably heard that approximately 80% of communication is nonverbal–or 70%, or 90%. Whether or not these numbers are accurate, it’s clear that interviewers rely heavily on facial expressions, tone of voice and other body language to “get a sense” for the candidate’s trustworthiness, character, interpersonal and relationship-building skills, confidence, honesty, “culture fit,” and so on. These impressions are often the deciding factor in who gets hired. Even where the tools offer feedback on nonverbals, they can’t possibly see and hear you in just the same way a real interviewer would.

Other tools include audiovisual elements, but those aren’t as easy to use.

I’m a more-or-less average user, but I found it awkward accessing the audiovisual tools, as I describe below.

My experiences with Five AI interview prep tools:

I tried out Adzuna Prepper, Huru.ai, Interview.ai, Interview Warmup by Google and ChatGPT.

Disclosure: I lack the patience and frustration tolerance to be an early adopter, and it shows. Your own mileage may vary.

Spoiler: ChatGPT was my favorite of the bunch. Feel free to skip to the end of the post for my comments on this AI.

Adzuna Prepper

Adzuna allows the user to type in their interview answers and receive feedback.

After selecting “Administrative Assistant” as my target job, I was given three choices for Interview Style: Easy, Hard or Pirate. (Pirate? Dang, I should’ve chosen that one.) I chose “Easy.”

I typed my answer to a question about my level of skills in PowerPoint, Excel and Outlook. I stated that my skills were quite basic but that I’m a quick learner. My answer earned a score of 70/100 and the following comment:

The candidate has a basic to intermediate skill level with PowerPoint and a basic to beginner level with Excel. Although they are rusty in using Outlook, they claim to have used it extensively in the past. Their enthusiasm to learn is a positive attribute. However, their skill levels are not very strong overall.

As an interview coach, my own feedback would have been more like, “It’s fine to state your skills levels, but let’s focus most of your answer on examples of the good work you’ve done with these tools.”

Huru.ai

The process of creating an account was a bit wonky, and when I tried to log in I initially received an error message. I tried again and it worked.

On the next screen, I was prompted to “Choose from +2000 career roles.” Beneath that I saw 29 job categories, each with anywhere from 4 to 11 positions listed. Maybe it’s just me, but in my world 29 x 11 = 319, nowhere near 2,000. Huh?

Anyway, I clicked the camera button to get started, and received an error message, a status of “Analyzing your answer. Please wait…” and a whirling ball.  I waited for more than a minute, then gave up. Maybe it’s my computer. It’s often slow, but rarely like this. I’m on an iMac with 3.4 GHz.

Interview Warmup by Google

The first screen asked “What field do you want to practice in?” and offered me six specific choices such as Data Analytics and IT Support—all tech jobs!—plus “General.” I selected “General.”

When I tried to answer a question aloud, I received an error message, “Mic blocked.” Odd, because I’ve been doing lots of Zooms lately with no problems. I clicked “Mic Help” but the advice didn’t match the problem I was having.

I started over, this time typing my answers. I was then told what job-related terms I’d used, what my most-used words were, and whether my answers had included Goals, Skills, Lessons learned, Experience or Interests. I didn’t find the feedback helpful. I’d rather just know what was or wasn’t effective about my answer.

Interview.ai

On the home page, I was offered two choices: “Sign up as a Business” or “Schedule a Demo.” I almost missed the small line under that, “If you are a candidate or a student, try mock interviews.” I clicked that, and was offered a choice of job types, mostly technical. I selected one of the few non-tech roles, Office Manager.

But when I entered my email address to create an account, the site hung for two minutes. I gave up.

ChatGPT

I started by telling ChatGPT I wanted to practice for a job interview. It asked me what the position was, and I replied “Admin Assistant” and pasted in a job description.

It then showed me ten typical questions and asked, “Would you like to do a mock interview where you respond to these questions, or do you need help crafting specific answers?” I opted for a mock interview.

ChatGPT started showing me recommended answers for the questions. “Stop,” I wrote. “Please let me answer before showing me answers.” The AI meekly followed my request.

ChatGPT asked, “Tell me about yourself.” I gave the following (fictional) answer:

I have 10 years of admin experience, starting with 5 years as a secretary with a small construction company, where I supported the general manager and two other managers. I performed mostly data entry at first, but I frequently volunteered for additional duties, and after only 8 months I was promoted to executive secretary. Then I moved to an environmental engineering firm, where I was admin assistant for the whole firm. I handled expenses, correspondence, databases, and more. I coordinated the firm’s move to new offices, which went smoothly. Unfortunately the company is going out of business so I’m looking for a new role.

ChatGPT’s feedback was:

That’s a great response to the “Tell me about yourself” question! You’ve provided a concise overview of your professional background and highlighted key experiences that demonstrate your skills and capabilities. Here are a few points of feedback and suggestions for enhancement:

    1. Highlight Achievements: You’ve mentioned your promotions and the successful coordination of the firm’s office move, which is excellent. Consider adding more specific achievements or outcomes from your roles, such as improvements in efficiency, cost savings, or successful projects you’ve led.
    2. Relevance to the Role: Since you’re interviewing for an Administrative Assistant position, it would be beneficial to emphasize aspects of your experience that directly relate to the responsibilities outlined in the job description . . .”

And so on. This is very good feedback.

I then decided to try a trickier question. I typed in:

I want feedback on my answer to the question “Why did you leave your most recent position?” My answer is: “I was fired from that role after a new manager replaced my former manager. She had always liked my work, but the new manager apparently wanted to replace the team, including me, with people he had worked with before.”

ChatGPT’s response was:

Your response provides a clear explanation for why you left your most recent position, which is important for transparency during the interview. Here are some points to consider regarding your answer:

    1. Honesty: It’s good that you’re being honest about the circumstances surrounding your departure. It’s better to provide a truthful explanation rather than trying to conceal or sugarcoat the situation.
    2. Focus on Performance: You mentioned that your former manager appreciated your work. If possible, highlight any positive feedback or accomplishments you received in the role to demonstrate your competence and value as an employee.
    3. Professionalism: While it’s understandable to feel frustrated about being let go, try to maintain a professional tone when discussing the situation. Avoid speaking negatively about your former manager or the company, as this could reflect poorly on you.
    4. Future Outlook: After explaining the reason for your departure, it’s helpful to segue into discussing what you learned from the experience and how you’re approaching your job search moving forward. Emphasize your enthusiasm for new opportunities and your commitment to contributing positively to a new team.

Overall, your answer provides a straightforward explanation for why you left your previous position. Just remember to focus on framing the situation in a professional and constructive manner during the interview.

Again, this is useful feedback.

If this job seeker were my client, I’d take it further. I’d coach the client not to start their answer with something negative like “I was fired.” ChatGPT raises a good point about focusing on what you did well in the past role. Beginning and ending the answer with such positives, while burying any negatives in the middle, will generally make a better impression. I’d also ask whether anyone else was fired when the new manager came on board. Mentioning that others were let go at the same time can help show that the termination wasn’t necessarily performance-related. (Read my post about answering negative and sensitive questions.)

The biggest downside of interview prep with ChatGPT is that it’s text-only, while real interviewers are strongly influenced by nonverbal communication. As they listen to why you left a past role, for instance, they will watch closely for signs of lingering negative emotions, which they’ll take as a red flag.

As a coach, I too observe these signs. I gently point out what I’m seeing, offering perspectives and support to help the client let go of the troubling emotion and get ready to interview calmly and confidently.

An AI assesses itself:

I was curious what ChatGPT would “say” about the value of a human coach. I quote its answer:

        Advantages of a human interview coach:

Personalization: A coach can offer highly personalized feedback based on not just what you say but how you say it, including your body language, tone, and other non-verbal cues.

Experience and Insight: Experienced coaches bring insights from specific industries and can share nuanced advice based on current hiring trends.

Mock Interviews: While I can simulate mock interview questions, a human coach can create more dynamic simulations, interact in real-time, and provide in-the-moment guidance and adjustments.

Emotional Support: A human coach can also offer encouragement and emotional support, helping build your confidence through more personalized interactions.

So, while I can be a very effective tool for preparing for interviews, combining this practice with occasional sessions with a human coach could provide the best of both worlds, especially for high-stakes interviews.

So there you have it, straight from the horse’s–er, the robot’s mouth. AI interview prep tools can be useful, but they don’t replace human coaching. Which approach will you take–AI, a coach, or both?

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