Career Resources

Monday, January 17, 2011

Your Interview: Improv, Dress Rehearsal or Final Performance?

I just started taking acting classes last week, and the first thing we had to do was improv.  It was fun, but extremely challenging, to act out my scene which was set at the top of the Statue of Liberty, while other students shouted out various emotions to me that I had to instantly adopt.  While the ability to think quickly on your feet is a wonderful skill to have and is useful in certain situations, it shouldn't be the basis of your interview style.  An interview is not the place to practice your improv, nor should it be a dress rehearsal. Your interview should be your final performance.

So how do you make your interview your final performance?  Well, the first thing you need to do is find a list of the most commonly asked interview questions for college students.  Your school's career services office is a great place to start.  You might also want to check out CollegeGrad.com's list http://www.collegegrad.com/jobsearch/Mastering-the-Interview/Fifty-Standard-Interview-Questions/.  While preparing your answers, you can't just think about how you'll answer these questions...you need to write down your answers...but they shouldn't be in paragraph form.  Instead, you should use bullet points to highlight the key things that you want to say in your interview. Unlike an actor, however, you don't want to memorize your lines because your interview will come across as a monologue.  You just want to have a general idea of how you'll answer each question.

The next step is to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  The best way to rehearse is to conduct a mock interview with your school's career counselor.  During the mock interview, your career counselor will ask you the standard interview questions that college recruiters ask and provide feedback about the content of your answers, your delivery style and how you present yourself.  If your first mock interview doesn't go so well, then you should consider doing another mock interview, preferably with another career counselor, so that you can get multiple perspectives and experience different interviewing syles.  You could even conduct mock interviews with other school staff members or faculty, family members and peers.  The more you rehearse, the better your interview performance will be.

Now as much as you prepare for your interviews, you will inevitably be given a question that you hadn't prepared for.  But if you have conducted enough dress rehearsals, you'll be feeling quite confident and assured and be able formulate an articulate, intelligent answer to any question that is thrown your way. But this is not the time to practice your improv skills because you'll probably end up blurting out a quick, knee jerk answer that might not be your best response.  What you want to do instead is use a stalling technique to buy you some time.  You may say something like, "That's a great question, Mr. Interviewer, may I have a moment to think about it?"  This technique will give you the time to provide a more well-thought out answer.

By putting in the necessary rehearsal time for your interviews, your performance is bound to elicit thunderous applause from your interviewers, who will be shouting, "You're hired! You're hired!"

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