Actors have job interviews nearly every day—they just call them auditions. We can learn a thing or two from the audition process to help make job interviews a bit more bearable.
Whether you've just graduated or are returning to the job market after some time, job interviews can be harrowing. We all know people who've stayed in jobs they don't like just to avoid the interview process altogether. But when the time comes, it's essential to put yourself out there. And no one has more experience with that than actors.
Actors have practiced and perfected the art of owning the room and rolling with the punches. They are experts at dealing with rejection. Acting is perhaps the only profession where you interview for jobs more than you do the actual work. What can we learn from the process of auditioning, which some actors do hundreds of times a year?
How do deal with performance anxiety in interviews
Like all things, the more you interview the easier it gets. Still, very few of us relish the opportunity to walk into a room and feel judged for our experience and capabilities.
There's plenty of articles out there with tips and tricks to help you ace your interview, but very few prepare you for the onslaught of in-the-moment self-doubt that can spiral out of control and cause you to say the wrong thing.
Actors train so they can get out of their heads and into their bodies. Practice embodied cognition—feel your feet on the floor and make eye contact. Whether or not you meditate, bring your attention to the sensation of your breath going in and out of your body.
All of these techniques will help you focus on the person in front of you and not the negative self-talk that may be spiraling in your mind.
How to prepare and practice for interviews
Many people think that actors are naturally natural but that couldn't be farther from the truth. I've known actors to have some of the worst cases of social anxiety out there. The difference is that they spend hours rehearsing and preparing for moments that make them uneasy. In fact, the general rule of thumb is to rehearse one full hour for each page of text in a play. Imagine if we put that type of preparation into our most important interactions!
First, set an intention or a goal for each interview—and make it about the company you are interviewing with or even the interviewer. Helping the company reach their goal, or making the interviewer feel inspired will reframe the interview experience and take the focus off of you, which relieves pressure.
Next, choose 2-3 questions you will likely be asked and prepare answers for them. Make a list of bullet points for each answer rather than scripting—then spend 20-30 minutes practicing these responses. Interviewing is improv, after all!
The best part is, you will likely use these responses in one way or another at your next interview. Practicing for the specificity of one interview carries over into all other opportunities to talk about your experience and skills.
How to make a connection with the interviewer
First, be strategic with setting up the logistics of your interview (sometimes, timing really is everything). And, of course, be extremely courteous with everyone you interact with, from the scheduler to the person at the front desk when you check in. But what do you do if you walk into a cold room, or if the team has just returned from lunch and the food coma hasn't worn off?
Actors know how to stay the course. When you perform a play eight times a week, you get used to the subtle fluctuations between audiences and learn not to get derailed by an audience who laughs one night and is silent the next. It's best to not beat yourself up (or the interviewers!) for a less than ideal vibe in the room. Bring yourself to the present moment and deal with what is in front of you, not how you wish the room would respond.
If you are being interviewed by a panel, pick the person who is the warmest of the bunch and put your focus on them while still acknowledging everyone in the room. Another technique is to mirror the energy of the room without sacrificing positivity. If the level of energy you are getting is a 5 out of 10, match that energy but remain connected and present. This may allow the interviewers to come towards you, rather than you trying to fill the gap, which can make you feel depleted.