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Using “Improv” to Prepare for an Interview

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The simple act of speaking requires a good deal of improvisation because the mind is addressing its own thought and creativity through words, sounds and gestures, and statements that feed back into the thought process (the performer as listener), creating an enriched repertoire of information. Known as “in the moment” communication that stimulates one’s immediate environment and inner feelings, improvisation and the skills of improvisation can be applied to many different abilities or forms of communication (i.e. artistic, scientific, physical, cognitive, academic…and of course, interviewing).

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in a one-day improvisation class at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Throughout the class we learned that improv artists use an acronym to describe their approach – CRAFT. We used this approach as part of our team building activities and improvisation exercises.

So what is CRAFT and how does it related to interviewing?

For each of the descriptions below I have included a definition/tips from both the improv and interviewing perspective. By following these tips you will CRAFT your way to winning over your audience; whether it be on the stage or in an interview.

Commit: (improv) Seize your initial impressions, ideas and feedback. Follow through with your honest and candid contributions. The best way to take care of a team member is to take care of yourself. This capitalizes the most valuable team asset: initial instincts and impressions.

Commit: (interviewing) Anytime you receive an interview the employer has determined you’ve met the basic qualifications for the position you are applying for. By preparing for the interview through knowing yourself, your resume, the position, and company you will have the confidence needed to shine in your interview. Don’t forget to “dress to impress,” deliver a firm handshake, smile and show enthusiasm; initial instincts and first impressions are everything.

React: (improv) Use your environment, one another and your own ideas as the inspiration for your thoughts and actions. Resist the illusion of control over an inherently ever-changing world. This maximizes the human and inspirational resources at hand.

React: (interviewing) Believe it or not, the employer you are interviewing with is not inviting you in to torture you but instead to put you at ease and create an enjoyable learning experience for both you and them. Also, when it comes to the Q&A part of the interview – don’t panic – your preparation will carry you through as you share your stories about the skills and experiences they are asking about. Remember to be yourself and not the person you think they want you to be.

Affirm: (improv) Regardless of whether or not you agree with an idea, embrace its contribution. Say “yes” to an idea, then use it to base your contribution. This fosters trust that all ideas are heard and respected as well as forcing collaborative thinking.

Affirm: (interviewing) When providing your responses to interview questions – despite their level of difficult – be sure to affirm your stories with detail and keywords relevant to the position. For instance, if asked a behavioral question (i.e. Tell me about a time when…) try using the STAR technique (S: Situation; T: Task; A: Actions; and R: Results). Or, if you are addressing questions about skills or strengths remember to always back them up (affirm) with proof of when, where and how you’ve used them. By implementing these strategies and affirming your stories, you can be assured that your responses will be heard.

Focus: (improv) Stay present with one another and pay the very attention you seek when contributing. Conscious attention is evident through eye-contact and active listening. This ensures the maximum input and evaluation from team members.

Focus: (interviewing) There are two key parts to consider when focusing: eye contact and actively listening to what the employer is asking. By no means should you devote yourself to 100% eye contact, giving the impression that you are psychotic. Instead, try more like 70%. Effective eye contact can help communicate confidence and belief in what you are saying. Secondly, be sure to listen to each interview question and pin-point the key words (skills or experiences) they are asking you to address. No matter how long-winded or confusing some questions may be, you will at least know what information they are seeking. Lastly, if provided a tour during your interview make sure you are engaged by asking questions, delivering the same positive first impression to new people you meet (as you did with the interviewer), and paying attention to the dynamics of the work environment.

Trust: (improv) Proceed in spite of the possibility of failure. Rest assured that the attention, respect and deference you give other team members will be given to you. This encourages the efficiency of collaboration by marginalizing the impact of fear and doubt.

Trust: (interviewing) Be yourself – trust yourself – believe in yourself! Most interviewees think they must deliver their “A game” in order to receive a second-round interview or job offer. While you will certainly prepare yourself to perform at this level, we are human and humans make mistakes. Not every response will go as you had planned. Sometimes your “B or B+ game” may just be enough.

For those interviewing – I wish you all the best as you begin to CRAFT your way to a successful interview!

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