Although, I can barely do 25 squats at the gym, I danced my entire life and performed countless times during my college career. The thrill of being on stage - like in an interview room - was almost addicting. All the eyes on you, the cheering, the applause, the lights, the makeup and costumes were all part of this magical experience. But it wasn't something that I had always enjoyed. I was very shy early on, and it wasn’t until college that I began to love the stage. With time and practice, I became a better performer. However, I did a lot of studying. Everything I know about being a performer and an entertainer I learned from Beyoncé (and The Beyonce Experience DVD to be exact). So why the heck do I tell you that? Last week, I did a webinar on effective job searching strategies. I focused on tactics that made my students the center of attention (in a good way). During the Q+A session, we spent a lot of time talking about interviewing, and that’s when I realized that my favorite part of the job search process was what people dreaded most. Was I some weird narcissist because I love the adrenaline of thinking on my feet and talking about myself in front of others? I damn sure hope not. After thinking it over, it dawned on me: interviewing was just like performing. So here are some valuable lessons I learned that you can take with you on your next interview.
Perform. Well that may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many people treat an interview like any other meeting. When you are on stage, you have to work the facial expressions, smile, go full out with the steps and try to breathe all at the same time. The interview should be no different. Your enthusiasm and excitement should shine through, and you should focus on making a connection with the person(s) sitting in front of you. Yes you want to sell yourself and your skill set, but it is all about the delivery. Be entertaining, be personable and leave an impression. That will get you hired before your Microsoft Word proficiency ever will.
Get out of your head. When you are performing, your mind goes blank for those minutes and you are unable to think about anything but what you are doing. Make an effort to be present during the interview and not get distracted by your nerves, salary, hunger, fatigue, etc. Whatever is vying for your attention has to be silenced until you get through the session. When you aren’t present, it shows because you are unable to answer the questions thoroughly, you lose your train of thought or you keep asking the interviewer to repeat themselves. Keep yourself engaged by looking directly at the interviewer as they ask you a question, and don't be afraid to take a moment to gather your answer.
Add your own flavor to the steps. A dance team learns the same steps, but not everyone performs the same way. Some people are graceful, others are high-energy, others are power dancers, some people have sass, but everyone makes it a point to express themselves and shine. During your interview, you should be in character and know what trait you want to be recognized for. Whatever it is that you plan to project, make sure it aligns with your personal brand and the company you are looking to work for.
Be versatile, but play to your strengths. Dancers often learn multiple disciplines. I personally studied ballet, Latin, African and modern dance. However, that did not mean, I was volunteering to be front and center for the African routines – my stamina was not about that life. I knew Latin dance was my strength and the genre that I could really give the best of me in. Knowing those other kinds of dance certainly made me a stronger dancer, but it wasn’t what I focused on. The same goes for interviews. You must identify and be aware of your skill set and what you can bring to the table for a potential employer. Instead of selling how you are mediocre at a lot of things, focus on sharing the two or three things that you are really good at and your ability to learn new things.
Don't psyche yourself out before an interview. Celebrate because you have moved onto the next level and were chosen out of a large pool of applicants to meet with the company. That accomplishment alone should give you a confidence boost. Just like performing, interviewing is a skill that takes time to develop, but no matter how good or bad you feel you are at it, lose yourself in the experience and shine through.