By Jane Marla Robbins
We all know that feeling—tightness in the belly, jumpy nerves, dry mouth, maybe even clammy hands—that can happen when something important is at stake, and job interviews are notorious for bringing it on. Here’s where we have something to learn from actors, who, with every audition, are really interviewing to get their next part. If you have difficulty being the person you want to be at a job interview, a few acting “tools of transformation” can help you present your strong, self-confident, best self, with whatever qualities the job might require—compassion, competence, strength, sense of humor, sincerity, intelligence and so on.
First Impression Extensive studies have shown that the points you get by giving a great first impression usually stick. Likewise, if the first impression isn’t good, it’s very difficult to change it later, so it should be stellar. You want to walk into that room looking and feeling self-confident, because nobody wants to hire someone who is depressed and feels inadequate. You need to convey the impression that you can fill their need for a person to do the job.
So make sure your shoulders are not slumped forward and that your chest—where your heart is—is open. Job environments and co-workers want and need love, as well as excellent work, of course. Harvard studies show that if your chest is open, your brain will produce chemicals to make you feel self-confident, and that if your shoulders are slumped forward, constricting your chest, your body produces chemicals of depression and low self-esteem.
Make sure, too, that you look your interviewer in the eye. Averting your eyes can unconsciously register as having something to hide. Your prospective employer wants to know you’re someone who will give his or her all, and hold nothing back.
Your voice A scratchy, squeaky or very soft voice will not engender confidence in a perspective employer. Here are two exercises for giving your voice more depth, resonance and self-assurance. First, make a “haaah” sound. Take a deep breath into your belly, extending it up your entire torso. Make sure your mouth is not clenched tight, but relaxed and open, and as you say “haaah,” feel the vowel resonate your chest bone.
This second exercise will give your voice added strength, resonance and focus. With your lips closed, make a “hmmm” sound. Loud. Feel the sound vibrate your lips. If your voice is hiding in the back of your throat, instead of bursting out of your lips and mouth, not only will it be less attractive, but, again subliminally, people will conclude that you are holding something back. You want to sound like the kind of person who offers her whole self to her job and holds nothing back.
Eliminate intimidation If you’re feeling intimidated by your interviewer, use an acting technique called “personalization.” Imagine—with your senses—someone with whom you are comfortable, superimposed on your interviewer. Maybe you will imagine seeing your best friend’s hat on your interviewer’s head, or hearing your best friend’s laugh. At a film audition for Arachnophobia, I imagined my best friend Anna’s blue coat on Steven Spielberg’s co-producer, Kathleen Kennedy. As I felt myself relax and open up, because my body thought Kathleen was my best friend (because I saw my friend Anna’s coat), I could sense Kathleen suddenly opening up to me, and I got the job. Harvard and UC Davis research on “guided sensory imagery” explains and proves how this works.
The meaningful pause Dare to take one. This takes courage, but if you’re suddenly shaky or can’t find a word, this can really help. Take that pause, if only to take a deep breath and get added oxygen to your brain. It’s unlikely your interviewer will question your wit here, more likely it will get her attention, curious as to what you’re going to say next. Just as an actor searching for a forgotten line may seem to be doing profound soul-searching, the interviewer might actually think you’re thinking, which is always impressive.
You can also use that pause to remind yourself of a useful affirmation, such as: “I’m not here for love, I’m here to get the job,” or “I deserve this job,” or “I deserve to make a good salary.” Actors also use meaningful pauses for dramatic effect; so can you.
Have fun If you’re having fun, there’s a good chance you might actually enjoy your interview, and your interviewer might, too. You can have fun and still be smart, efficient and possibly even inspired. Before you go in, run through a list of people, places, things and events that make you smile. Allowing your senses to remember the details—the warmth of the sun on your body, the taste of a ripe persimmon—will put your body in its pleasure state.
Relax If you’re tense, you can’t see or hear properly, and you’re going to want to understand every nuance of what the interviewer is saying to you. Are your shoulders bunching up? Are they tightening your neck so your voice sounds strangled, and there’s not enough oxygen getting to your brain? Actors are always aware of their tension levels, knowing that if they’re tense, they won’t perform at their best.
There are many relaxation exercises to use before you leave your home, but once you’re at an interview, one of the fastest and most grounding is to become aware of the floor under your feet, then pull a breath all the way up from there through your body, filling your belly, and exhale slowly. A little preparation is always a good thing, but staying present in your body at the interview will help you be the very best you can be.
Jane Marla Robbins teaches acting techniques for business and social success.
❋❋ If you liked this story you might also like . . . ❋❋