I recently read Michael Shurtleff’s “Audition”, which is about how to audition for a play, and how auditioning and performing are different skill sets. There were a lot of parallels in the book between the acting world and business, where job interviewing and performing in a role are different skill sets. Shurtleff’s directness in how to handle situations was refreshing. Here are my translations to the job interview process:
- Take every audition you can get = Take every interview you can get. Performers need to constantly audition in order to maximize their opportunity of landing an acting role. In the professional world, interviewing can be equally valuable, even if the job on paper doesn’t look like what you’re interested in. You never know what might happen when you meet the hiring manager. Maybe they’ll modify the role to fit your skills? Maybe there’s another role they are thinking of that’s a better fit? Or, maybe you’ll develop a useful relationship? Don’t refuse the job before it’s offered.
- Focus on the producer or director rather than yourself = Focus on the hiring manager, not yourself. Producers and directors may see dozens of auditions every day. They may be exhausted. Be empathetic. In business, the hiring manager has their own job to do, and also has to go through hundreds of resumes to try and find the right fit. Ask them questions about their day and their interests. Often, the most important part of an interview is the connection you develop with the interviewer, rather than the skills that you bring.
- Give it your all = Show what you know. Actors have to give 100% in every audition, and this should translate to the corporate world as well. Don’t hide behind modesty and humility. Showcase your skills and experiences when the interviewer/producer asks about them. Be bold and courageous.
- You can only control your own performance = You can only control how well you interview. If you don’t get the job, remember that there are lots of factors that go into the decision, and all you can control Is how well you audition / interview. A performer may be the best actor who auditioned, but might not be a good fit with the rest of the cast. You might be the best fit for the role, but maybe your skills are similar to someone else on the team, and they need someone who can complement those skills. Whatever it is, it’s useful to know how you can improve your interview, but not as useful to know exactly why they hired someone else.
- Be persistent = Be persistent. Shurtleff gives a great example of how he wanted to become a casting director on Broadway and he wanted to work for David Merrick. He wrote him letters every week for seven months, told everyone he knew that he wanted to work with Merrick, and showed up at his office. Finally, he got the job. Now, I don’t suggest that you stalk anyone. If you want to work for a specific company or in a specific role, be persistent. Don’t try once and give up. Call the recruiter, email the hiring manager and find people you know who know someone at the company. Ask for what you want, then ask again.
The above guidance is true for all interviews. Some additional considerations for on-demand or consulting work, which generally have shorter interview cycles include:
- You may only have a short interview process, so do your homework so the CEO doesn’t need to spend time telling you about the company.
- Ask questions to gain understanding of the company needs including why they are seeking fractional help, and then you can more quickly pinpoint your specific skills that make you a fit for the role. Often in an executive-level on-demand role, the hiring manager doesn’t have functional expertise, so they may need help figuring out exactly what skills are needed for success.
- Let your skills speak for themselves. If possible, engage in a project quickly that can showcase your skills and your value to the company. After a successful project, you can determine whether there’s a mutual fit for a longer-term fractional or interim role.
When you get your next interview opportunity, keep these tips in mind, and remember that, even if you are stellar at your job, you also need to be a good interviewer. Our 15-Second Pitch webinar recording gives some good tips on this, if you’d like further insight!
-Cathy Hawley, July 15, 2021