Thursday, November 3, 2011

What I Learned From Comedy Improv About Interviewing

Today I took a comedy improv class at the National Comedy Theater in Mesa. There were so many great connections between improv and interviewing that I had to share them right away.

One of the first exercises we did was a group activity to get comfortable looking silly and to make failure acceptable (even celebrated!). Treating failure as an acceptable part of achieving a goal removes fear, plain and simple. If you stretch yourself out of your comfort zone frequently, you will learn to accept failure as a part of success, making it a much smaller force during an interview.

Another set of exercises were focused on getting "out of our own head" and learning to trust our gut. Here are the tips I took away to use in an interview:

1.Listen. Really listen to what is being said and pay attention to what is going on around you. If you are thinking of what you are going to say or worrying about saying the wrong thing, you take away your greatest asset: understanding. Understanding questions and situations is critical. Giving your focus and attention to the OUTSIDE takes all the power away from any negative self talk you might do be doing otherwise.

2. Trust you know what you need to know to respond to a question, without a doubt. All you have to do is pull the information out. Consider trying some word association exercises. You don't have to prepare in order to get a word that makes sense or relates - it just happens. In fact, the less you think about it, the more related the word ends up being!  The same thing happens with interview questions - the more you trust your answer and less you over thinking, the more logical and appropriate your answer will be.

3. Don't try to give a "wow" answer or anything off-the-wall to stand out. Logical answers that closely match the content of the question are far better and cause way less stress.

4.Confidence sells. Make eye contact and answer with confidence. You are talking about you in an interview (a subject you are the number one expert in)so answer with complete confidence.

5. Repeat the question at the beginning of your answer. It will help you settle (let those nerves go away!) and it will help focus your answer (as well as show that you listened).

6. Stay positive. Avoid saying no. Try saying statements that start with"yes, and...". Why? Because "no" ends the conversation. Once you've said "no" there really isn't anything left to say.  "Yes, and"... Allows you to add a new thought or turn the conversation in a new direction. Handy! Isn't it better to keep the conversation rolling and maybe grown into something both parties can agree on? Special note: of course this won't work for those disqualifying questions where the right answer is to say "no", but you get the point.

Last lesson - try something that makes you a little uncomfortable every once in a while. Stretching is the fastest way to grow! Happy interviewing!

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