Despite the number of celebrities appearing on talk shows nattering on about their careers, the actual practice of acting is often cloaked in mystery and clouded by myth.
Kind of like job interviews.
But just as you can study the process of acting and learn specific techniques to support you in your work, you can do the same with job interviews. In fact, the same set of skills can help you in both areas.
Time for a little full disclosure here: although I've been writing on career issues for nine years now, I have much more experience on the stage than in the human resource office. The following are some areas where I see the two worlds overlapping:
1. Know what you're doing: Actors need to know what their characters want to accomplish, and understand the world in which they live. So do job applicants. An actor in a Shakespearean play would want to make sure she understood status issues in the courts of kings, not to mention what all those words mean. Make sure you do the same. Prepare for your interview by researching the specific job you seek, the overall culture of the organization and its standing relative to other companies in the same field.
2. Practice: Rehearsing is not about learning lines. It's about internalizing the lines so you can communicate effectively. When you practice for a job interview by answering potential questions with a friend, the goal is not to come up with snappy answers that will wow the interviewer, although that would be nice. Use the process to identify what you really want to say, and find ways to say it clearly.
3. Honesty: Acting is not about putting on a false voice, or a phony attitude and trying to lie to people. Audiences can smell that kind of false behavior a mile away, and it doesn't play well. In a job interview, your task is to represent yourself as genuinely and sincerely as possible. Trying to be someone other than who you are doesn't ultimately work well for anyone.
4. Listen to feedback: During the rehearsal process and run of a show, actors get notes from directors and the stage manager to keep them on track and doing what they're supposed to do. You have to take in these comments and work with them to keep the whole production, and your position within it, chugging along. Actors also get reviews. While you're not likely to read about your job interview performance in the newspaper, solicit feedback from those you know and trust when you prepare for an interview. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can also request a response from your corporate interviewer.
One of the advantages of having a technique for anything, whether it's a tennis swing, audition, or job interview, is that it gives you something to fall back on when the pressure's on. Hopefully these tips can give you some support the next time the lights are on you.