Job interviews are similar to acting auditions
I hate job interviews. I assume you probably do, also. There are a number of reasons for this.
A primary one is that it’s the ultimate reflection of where we are in life. It’s a look back and a look forward. Have we prepared adequately? Where could this new job take us? Big questions. Big stressors. And then allowing strangers to judge these questions is a humbling and sometimes horror-filled process. I think chewing ground glass would be better than subjecting myself to a job interview, or at least, the build-up to it. Once there, or when I’m finally on camera, the fear subsides.
There are so many stressors that pop up when we land the audition or interview. Who will conduct the interview? Who will see my audition tape? Does that individual even know what the job is, or are they just someone in human resources who has to fill a number of different positions throughout the day. Did you get past the casting director? Did the job description even adequately describe the job requirements? So many unknowns. Oh, crap-a-doodle-doo, why am I even here?
And, here’s a biggie. Is the interviewer the final say as to whether we win? And I say win because this is a competition. You are a contestant, and how you prepared could be the difference between the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat. Is there more than one person who will decide your career future, or a board of gatekeepers? How many people are we competing against? Does it help to even know? And another fear factor: has someone already been chosen? Could it be the boss’s cousin or the HR heads’ old college buddy?
We have given these people ultimate control of our lives, at least for a moment. They are our rubber room attendants. We’re locked in with them or on a phone call for 15 minutes or longer, and we’ll be trying to get into their mind while they get into ours. The power they wield is awesome as they hold the key to our career, financial freedom, our confidence, our quality of life, and our families’ peace and comfort.
I’m not trying to stress you out by going over this, especially, if you have an upcoming interview. I feel it can be good, though, to see our fear list in writing. I’ve never written them down until now, so I can say it’s actually starting to help me understand why those metallic butterflies in my stomach start swarming when I’ve landed the interview or audition.
You know, I’ve never thought of it, but maybe the interviewer hates the process as much as we do. Maybe you could be the one to calm that person’s nerves during the interview. You could be their hero for the day with your positive attitude and calmly provide answers they may not feel comfortable asking. This might be their first interviewing role ever. You are in charge, now.
So how can we lessen these soul-clawing stressors? What is the best state of mind we can go into an interview or audition without feeling the need to empty our stomach onto someone’s desk?
I’ll be honest, I don’t have all the answers and there are better technical articles related to acing the job interview, I’m sure. But as a TV and movie actor, I am constantly interviewing, or auditioning. Can you imagine going on an interview every two or three weeks for years? Whether simply sending a few photos to a casting director or self-taping an audition from a script, the interview process never stops. I’m sure many actors are like me. We’re constantly questioning our own sanity as to why we would be a part of this mad marathon; until we get in front of the camera and experience the magic of it all.
To note, I don’t have to travel much as every time I go to set it’s like entering a new world. New buildings, new scenery, new cars, new stunts, new clothes, new characters, new food, new experiences.
I haven’t been an actor all of my life, so I’ve had a number of non-entertainment job interviews. But much of what I’ve done in the past does come into play, from cop to airman.
In Georgia, for now, most TV and movie auditions are considered “day player” roles. These are short gigs where you’re in a scene or two with just a few lines. Still, landing these roles is a mighty mountain to ascend with all of the competition. Your wish is always that they will lead to the BIG one.
So I’ve learned to look beyond the current audition and not get too bummed if I don’t book the gig. It could be the stepping stone for more work. Each audition, even if it’s with the same casting director, can be an introduction to new producers, cinematographers, and directors. So you treat each audition or interview as a portal to future gigs.
If you haven’t seen me in shows like ‘Stranger Things’ or ‘The Walking Dead’, it’s only because you probably blinked. It’s usually fast; seconds. I may be American cinema’s most featured, prolific, silent face, having been in over 150 productions, but that doesn’t mean I always make the final cut.
Now for some, that can be discouraging. For me, I don’t necessarily need to see my face on the big screen. I know what I look like. I do enjoy the process, though. I particularly enjoy doing film double and stand-in work as you learn more and work closely with the main actors and decision-makers. And you go from the chicken lunch menu to the shrimp.
You may even get to run lines with an actor to help them prepare for their scene. As a stand-in, you are the one the cameras, lighting, actions, and audio levels are adjusted to until the main actor is brought in to do their thing.
Like the job interviewee, the actor does not always know the person(s) who is making the final call decision to book you or not. And you almost never get a call back saying that you didn’t get the job. Maybe there are types of jobs that make this a standard practice, but I know in the film industry, it’s not. After all,who could handle calling 50 actors to tell them “sorry, better luck next time?”
Also, many times you get very little information about the role? That’s right. I’ve seen as little information as ‘you are a businessman who is upset about a deal that just went bad.’ Okay, that’s something, but not much.
Now you have an idea of how old that person is because you were the one chosen to audition. You may have a name. That’s a non-help, unless it’s Bad Boy Brendon or Sassy Sally May. You know the gender of the role. That’s you.
So, without much of a job description, you are left with creating the role. You are being asked to convince the gatekeepers why they should let you be a part of their most precious project. You’re being challenged to show them why you would not screw up their multi-million dollar venture. You’re being asked to change their minds about any preconceived notions they have about the character. And, they know the character well. The script may have been written over many years.
Your gatekeepers know what the character or worker looks like; the sound, the face, the voice. Now the interviewer for a non-entertainment job may not care what you sound or look like, but they know the requirements that will make their organization better, more profitable, more efficient, or who’ll be needed to replace the sluggards who’ve screwed things up.
So, like the actor, whether you’re bucking for a civil attorney position or flipping burgers at McDonald’s, you’re being allowed to change some minds about how you may do things better. The spotlight is on you! Shave, wear deodorant, get a haircut, pick your nose, wear the right tie, match your socks. Look the part! On second thought, maybe a job interview presentation is more like an acting audition after all. First impressions, baby.
So enough analysis. Here are a few things I do to make me stronger, and, although the anxiety doesn’t entirely go completely away, they help me focus on things I do have control over.
Firstly, if you’re able, find out a few things about the founders of the company or venture; those who have invested the most blood, treasure, and mental capital. Although you may never be asked about them, this can help you know what is important to the organization. And bring it up in the interview if you can.
Add to that, what is the company’s latest successes and failures? This ties you into knowing what your potential role could be? You may be asked similar things by the interviewer about yourself. What are your strengths, your weaknesses?
And, who are the heroes? Who are the folks moving the company forward or have done so in the past? I think the interviewer would be delighted if you knew this. That would show you are investing research time to help make their venture more successful? And the interviewer wants to keep his/her job by doing their job. If they can pass your knowledge and excitement on to the final decision-makers, then all the better for them.
And, of course, what are the skills needed for the role. I had a recurring role audition for a comedy sitcom recently. I was somewhat fearful as it was my first major role, and I could have rather easily justified turning down the audition. But I told myself this. How can I get the big roles if I don’t audition for them? I know I have the skills to carry it. It comes down to the Nike theory of success. Just do it. So I did. I didn’t get the role, but I’m now more experienced than I was the day before.
To be honest, the production is now out, and I think I would have been a better choice. The actor had less hair and appeared older. If that’s what they wanted, they got it. Sometimes my BIG hair and younger appearance than my actual age is a plus, sometimes a minus. I’d rather it be this way than visa versa.
Now I say this in part, that if you don’t win the job, don’t curl into a fetal position. Hey, maybe you were too good, or too smart, or too qualified. Give yourself props. That may sound strange that you’re too good for a job, but I’ve lived long enough to know that some company cultures promote mediocrity. They hire poorly and promote incompetency. Look at our federal government for some latest examples.
Lastly, know your role. Google it, question it, ask others about it; and, if possible, become it. That’s right. Become it. Speak it. If you have time, find a way to live it. Most of my auditions have under a week to meet the deadline, so getting in that zone puts me in front of Youtube videos, the mirror, my camera, to turn myself into a new person. The process isn’t easy. But, it’s a creative blast! And then I bring myself back into the role so it’s more authentic. It has become me. I have become it.
After all, it’s my personality and skills that are being hired. No one else’s. And if you want to remain long in a job or an acting career, be you. No one likes a phony. And you’ve heard it before, there is only one you. Let the truth of that sink in. God made you unique. If others don’t necessarily like that, bump ‘em. Who are they to say? Who made them king of you?
Now, if you just suck at your job or are a jerk, as long as you have breath, you have time for a course correction. But, first, you have to be honest about it. Do the mirror thing. Ask others about you. It could hurt. It could help. I do this when my reader, the person who speaks the other lines during the audition, is usually honest enough to tell me what’s working and what isn’t. I don’t even have to ask their opinion. Actors can be rather opinionated. It’s part of the passion of wanting to make something great.
And isn’t that what living is all about? Make something great of our lives to be a blessing, not a curse, to build others up. To create a hopeful and amazing future for ourselves and our loved ones, and to fight against the tyranny of negative inner voices and the all-pervasive culture of mediocrity.
God bless you and have the most prosperous and amazing new year!