Monday, March 18, 2013

Three serious interview tips from comedians

Last night I attended a hilarious comedy show by a nationally-known comedian. I have been a fan of his for a while now and it was a treat to see his show live because of his performance flair and the intricate awareness he brings to his life and our culture.

I was reflecting afterward about how difficult it must be to prepare a comedy routine, and I couldn't help but be struck between the parallels between it and preparing for an interview. There are things you can learn about interview preparation from comedians, ones that would make you a stronger interviewer.

1. Create an air of observation: for a comedian, anything has the potential to be material, from trips to the airport and dinner with a significant other to children and going to the doctor. Comedians have to be perpetually observant and bring those observations into their acts. As it is highly likely that you will one day be interviewing for another job, you need to create an air of observation now, as the material you are creating is material for an interview. What projects have you worked on of which you are particularly proud? What are your workplace strengths and weakness? How do you function on a team and how have you remained productive when working with difficult team members? These are but a few questions to get you thinking and there are many more. Spend time reflecting on your current and past positions to create a bank of interview material worth developing.

2. Develop your material for your specific audience: not every comedian is for every audience. Rodney Dangerfield would bring a different crowd to his shows than a Dane Cook. Knowing your interview audience would allows you to filter through your material and cater it specifically to this group. Think about who your audience is, what appeals to them, what their values are, and what their needs are; this will help you hone your material for them and make your message all the more relevant.

3. Practice like you have never practiced before: comedians practice new material through live stand-up appearances in front of hundreds of people. They refine their stories through trial-and-error and perfecting their deliver so that it is natural and not forced. Most of us, however, cannot practice in front of a mirror. If you want to land a position, practice thoroughly.

If you want to progress in your interview, do the hard work - comedian-level hard work - and get disciplined in your interview preparation.

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