• Terry Withers

Nail Your Next Job Interview Like A Gnarly Skateboarder Would!

Confidence is not always pomposity, but more often generosity! Boost confidence before you interview using an improv comedy perspective. Interview confidence tips below!

The Public Skateboarders Among Us

Let us consider for a moment those among us who would skateboard in public places. Typically on the younger side of things, often in a small pack, possibly dressed well (but it is hard to say that definitively). These are the athletes of our mini shopping malls and grocery store parking lots.

Have you noticed them falling off of library steps and park benches? Maybe you saw one tumble over a hedge you were walking by or crash into a bicycle?

You know who I mean.

They’ll often try to flip their board while riding on it, but sort of trip on it instead and then crumple to the ground? Or they’ll try to balance their board on a narrow metal staircase banister, even though they don’t seem all that well balanced when they are just walking on the ground.

I’m just joking, they’re not that bad. You still don’t know who I mean?

Maybe one crashed into a person you were walking with? Or maybe they crashed into you or your car? You might have seen one go careening off a cliff?

Here’s the great thing that I love about skaters. They feel good about what they are doing. And you never have any doubt about it.

Fall over, crash into something, it doesn’t matter. They gamely pick themselves up, dust themselves off and get back to business. In fact, they often congratulate each other after moves that, to my uneducated eye, seem to be… incorrect.

Are they any good at skating? I have no idea, I’m not qualified to judge. They don’t seem good at it, but like I said, I can’t be sure because they definitely seem to think they’re good at it.

So no one worries about them.

What a gift that is. To be unencumbered by self doubt is to release the others around you from the concern that you might need propping up.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people applying for jobs behaved like skaters?

It’s That First Moment Of Confidence

Here’s something interesting about improv comedy shows: A lot of times the first big laugh doesn’t come from a joke, it comes from a show of confidence.

To understand why you have to look at the show through the eyes of the audience. Unlike most other performance art, improv is unprepared. There is no guarantee that what an audience sits down to watch will be good, no guarantee of that at all.

So audiences, naturally, tend to be pretty nervous.

But it isn’t just themselves that they are worried about. In my experience, audiences are normally more worried for the performers than themselves. In fact here is how I would rate, from an audience enjoyment perspective, the quality of improv shows:

GREAT - Very funny show that the audience is into and the performers feel great about.

OKAY - A show with some funny moments and some scenes that miss the mark. The performers aren’t ecstatic, but they aren’t traumatized either.

BAD - Almost no moments in this show work. The audience is not enjoying themselves, but the improvisers seem focused on their craft and unaffected by the reception to the show.

NIGHTMARE - The show is bad and the performers know it. Worse, the performers feel bad about the show and the audience can see their embarrassment. The audience leaves the theater worried about the feelings of the performers.

So the absolute worst thing you can do to an improv audience is let them know you don’t like what you’re engaged in. And a bad show might actually have worse scenes in it than what I’m classifying as a nightmare show. The quality of the scenes themselves is not the determining factor that separates the two.

What does separate the two is simply this:

A bad show will leave an audience thinking that the performers are wasted their time.

A nightmare show will leave an audience worried about the performer’s feelings (on top of thinking that their time was wasted).

For so many reasons, that second option is a much worse outcome. And not just because it is named the Nightmare option. Not only did this audience not enjoy the show, they are left with concerns and worries long after the show is over.

The performers were encumbered by self doubt, so the others around them were weighed down with the concern that they might need propping up.

No wonder audiences laugh at the first confident move an improviser makes. It’s a relief! Up until that moment, the audience isn’t sure what they are in for.

Once they see that confidence, they know that at the very least, a nightmare experience is off the table. Put another way, the first step to having a great show is making sure you don’t have a nightmarish one.

Is it any different with any other social interaction? It could be a work meeting, a job interview, a blind date, or your first day of class with your new high school lab partner. Once we feel that a person we’re working with is confident and content, we can relax.

What if I said that the first step to having a great job interview is making sure you don’t have a nightmarish one?

Well, that’s a bold statement, especially since I haven’t even defined what a nightmare job interview is. Please see the rankings for job interviews below:

GREAT - A very qualified candidate answers questions knowledgeably and confidently in the interview and seems convinced they would do well in the open position.

OKAY - A qualified candidate struggles with some questions, but answers others well. Although there is some confusion, the person running the interview feels the candidate believes they would do well in the open position.

BAD - The candidate was maybe not fully qualified or prepared. They struggled with almost every question, but they still seemed confident they would do well in the role if given a chance.

NIGHTMARE - The candidate answered questions poorly, was missing important credentials or experience and seemed to be going to pieces as the interview continued. At the interview’s conclusion, the interviewer was worried about the candidate’s feelings.

I would suggest that an interviewer will reward a candidate’s confidence for the same reason an improv audience will: It’s a relief!

As long as the candidate feels good about their interview then a nightmare interview is impossible. So weirdly, by going into your job interview confidently, you aren’t just helping yourself. You’re also helping the interviewer’s peace of mind - you’re taking care of the interviewer.

Confidence Is Not Pomposity, But An Act Of Generosity

When I work with an improv student or corporate client on confidence, they often express a distaste for arrogance. They think overconfidence is a character weakness and they seek to save face through self-deprecation. But all the I’m-so-out-of-my-depth routine creates is pity and concern.

So leading with confidence is not necessarily an act of pomposity. In fact, if you’re worried that it might be, it most likely isn’t for you. You can go ahead and put that weight down.

Instead, begin to regard the projection of confidence as an act of great generosity.

Arm yourself with this truth for your next job interview! Go into that room, resume in hand, and let them see how great you are.

Doit, not for your career, or earning potential or ego. Do it for the interviewer’s peace of mind. Protect the person interviewing you with your confidence.

Improv Confidence Training

It is no secret in improv circles that confidence from the performers is good for the audience’s peace of mind. For this reason (and others) many improv exercises have been developed with the goal of honing a performer’s confidence. These exercises can be used as confidence boosters before an interview.

You can find some examples of improv exercises designed to build and project confidence on the RA website in the Improv Wisdom section. Look for exercises designed to help with public speaking in particular. Or sign up for October 2022’s L&D Happy Hour, which will focus on building confidence for the sake of others. Or come to some of RA's daily free workshops!

I hope this blog post has been helpful and that I’ll see you around RA soon!

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