closeup of a microphone in a theater

If you’re like most of us, you have a job interview maybe every few years. And for most of us, as infrequent as they might be, the interview process is dreadful.

But actors, oh dear. If they’re lucky, very lucky, they have a few interviews a week, and in almost every case, they’ll be turned down. Yes, poor actors spend considerably more time auditioning than acting, so they better learn to enjoy the process, and they better have a solid arsenal of tricks up their sleeve, or it would certainly be a miserable existence.

There’s a lot we can learn from their experience. There are proven techniques that can turn an audition in one’s favor, and because most HR people aren’t as abrupt as casting directors, they work even better in real life.

The next time you have a job interview, think like an actor.

  1. Casting directors want you to do a good job. So do HR folks. They want to be impressed. If an actor does a beautiful audition, they’re that much closer to casting the role, which is their sole purpose. Going in, the interviewer is on your side.
  2. Memorize your monologue. Actors must know the script so well, it becomes second nature to them. They can’t afford to be struggling to remember lines … the lines have to be a part of them so they can be spoken from the heart. You need to do the same. Write your script ahead of time. Answers to questions you know you’re going to get, like, “Tell me about your work history,” or, “What are your qualifications?” or, “What makes you think you’re good for this position?”. You don’t want to fumble; you want to be polished. Then, memorize it. Perfectly.
  3. Pay attention to your body language. Just like an audition, a job interview is not merely reciting works … it’s displaying a character, and in this case, that character is you. You want to convey who you are, project confidence, display empathy and thoughtfulness. Your arm movements, hand gestures, eye contact and facial expressions tell a story that often speaks louder than your words.
  4. Eye contact is everything. Actors who stare at their scripts have about zero chance of success. Do not stare at the floor. Or your hands. Or your résumé. Look them in the eye, and maintain it. You’ll project confidence, and the interviewer will feel compelled to pay attention.
  5. Make the slate count. Almost every audition starts with the slate. For actors, this is simply the act of stating your name and what you’re performing, and occasionally a few other details. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is. You are being judged the moment you walk in, and those first couple of minutes can change everything. It’s no different on a job interview. You have to be different, confident, and happy. Try not to merely say the usual, “Hello, nice to meet you.” Say something relevant that will stand out. One important secret that great actors know about auditioning: you have control over them, not the other way around.
  6. Fight stage fright. Everybody gets it. A rush of adrenaline is going to have its effect on you, so get used to it. Think of it as a happy excitement as opposed to a fear reaction. Do some deep breathing before you go in; that can help a lot. Drink some tea. Stretch. Remember, stage fright can be turned into a positive force if you’re prepared for it.
  7. Don’t rush. Take a deep breath. Don’t feel you have to rush through your answers. Talk to the interviewer, not at them. If you ask a question, wait for an answer. Take your time.
  8. Don’t make excuses. Great actors never start with something like, “Well, I only had 15 minutes to prepare for this, so please bear with me.” Statements like that never make a good impression. Keep your excuses to yourself and just do the best you can.
  9. You want it, but you don’t need it. It’s human nature for people to be drawn to those who seem not to need them that much. As a talented individual, don’t sell yourself short by trying too hard to please or acting like your life depends on getting the job. You’re excited about it, you’d be perfect for it, you want it. But if you don’t get it, that’s okay too because there are plenty of other exciting opportunities out there. Put yourself in that mindset, for real, and it’ll make a strong impression.
  10. Smile.
  11. Get a great night’s sleep.
  12. Arrive early.
  13. Dress well, but comfortably.
  14. Make eye contact. We said that already, but it’s so important we’re saying it again.
  15. Be polite.
  16. Show some personality. Charm will make you more memorable than most candidates that poor HR person has to deal with.
  17. The interview is the win; getting the position is a bonus. Successful actors don’t focus on whether or not they get a particular part. Instead, all look at being able to audition as the win. They know that with enough auditions, they’ll eventually get a role, and in the meantime, they’re getting valuable practice.