Improv (short for improvisation) may not be the first thing that comes to mind if you are preparing for an interview. However, it can be an effective tool to take your interview skills to the next level.
I first learned about improv from a guest speaker in my graduate program. The course was Executive Leadership with the renowned Dorothy Bullitt. I fondly remember the improv instructor teaching us how improv could be translated from the stage to the boardroom. As a career and interview coach, I also observed connections to my work helping clients find jobs they love.
Since that seminar, I have encouraged my job seeker clients to harness the power of improv when interviewing. If they’re up for the challenge, I also recommend signing up for an improv workshop or course!
5 Improv Strategies To Succeed In Your Next Interview
Regardless of whether you decide to enroll in an improv class, here are five strategies you can leverage when interviewing:
1. Be prepared.
To start, improv — much like learning how to effectively interview for a prospective new role — takes ample practice. Set aside dedicated time each day or week for interview prep. This includes rehearsing your elevator pitch, preparing to speak to your strengths and weaknesses, outlining your START stories, and developing questions for the interviewers. Also think about practicing with a team — including friends and family members, mentors, and a coach — to take your interview skills to the next level.
2. “Yes, and…”
Another improv tool you can use when interviewing is the “Yes, and…” principle. In improv scenes, the participants are encouraged to say “Yes, and…” when responding to statements, as it keeps the dialogue moving forward. This same idea can be applied when asked questions during your interview. As you prepare for your next interview, take note of whether there are any areas where you are not fully qualified. If asked about one of these areas in the interview, focus on any related experience and transferable skills you do have, rather than calling attention to the experience you do not have.
Active listening is a key ingredient of any successful improv performance. With more interviews being conducted virtually, you have to be sure your interview space is free of distractions so you can remain focused. Then during the interview, periodically summarize what you hear from the hiring manager. If an interview question is unclear, ask clarifying questions. Also know that you can take notes during the call. I am a proponent of writing down interview questions as they are being asked, as it can help you stay focused and in the moment.
4. Stay in the moment.
Learning to stay in the moment, which can feel difficult in a high-stakes interview, is another helpful improv tool. Deep breathing can also keep you grounded in the present. Before each interview, place your feet firmly on the ground and spend a few minutes breathing deeply. Once in the interview, take a breath before answering each question. If you are a fast talker, you can also practice taking a breath between each sentence. This will not only help you stay in the moment but will also allow the interviewer to take ample notes and interject with any follow-up questions that may arise.
5. Have fun.
Finally, improv is about having fun. Look for ways to make the interview process more enjoyable. This may look like thinking of ways to bring more of your personality to the job search or rewarding yourself after each successful interview stage. The key is to not take yourself too seriously.
Need some inspiration as you prepare for your next interview? Give one or more of these improv strategies a try. You’ve got this!