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Interviews can be a daunting experience for some people, as is stepping onto a stage in front of a crowd for an actor. Yes, I’m making a comparison between the two because they’re actually very much alike. You may be asking yourself how?
Well, both interviews and performances/auditions have these things in common:
- They have high stakes
- You want to portray your best self
- You might be experiencing (a lot of) nerves
- You want to make sure you’re heard and understood
- You want to show that you know your stuff
- You want to get the best end result (The job/standing ovation!)
As an Actor with a performance degree and professional training, I know just how much I’ve used the skills gained in the theatrical world and applied them to everyday life, and particularly how it’s helped me when dealing with the interview process. So, I’ll be showing you some of the areas of performance that may help you in your next interview. Firstly, we will be considering how you can physically prepare:
1. Dealing with Nerves
Nerves can affect us all at the most inconvenient times. For me, I get the most nervous minutes before I’m about to step on stage or into an interview, the feelings are very similar! There are a few simple techniques that may help settle your nerves, some for before you leave home and others for just before you step through the door.
I know this seems like the most obvious statement to make, but we often forget to do the simplest of tasks when we’re feeling overwhelmed. Something you can do either at home or in the bathroom before the interview (or in public if you don’t mind looking a little odd!) is to reach both arms across to the opposite shoulder and rest your hands there, imagine giving yourself a hug, then take a deep breath in. The hugging position forces our breath to go deep, which will send a message to your brain to calm down and relax, which will then be relayed back to your body. Do this a couple of times until you feel the effect.
Smiling, even when you don’t feel like it, has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and lower your heart rate, improving your mood. It’ll also make the person interviewing you feel more comfortable too, win win!
Nerves perpetuate our thoughts but they can become physical too. You may feel your body becoming really tense, particularly your shoulders and neck – where we hold a lot of our stress. Again, in a place where you feel comfortable, start with gentle shoulder rolls and if you have enough space, you can incorporate your whole arms in this movement. After shoulder rolls, take a short breath raising your shoulders to your ears simultaneously. Then, when you exhale, do so slowly and gradually lower your shoulders at the same time.
Neck rolls are also really good to help loosen up the tightness in the muscles, so start with a gentle roll from left to right, forward and back, making sure to keep your jaw loose and open, especially when your head is back. These are all things you can do yourself, however, if you can get someone else to give you a little shoulder and neck massage, that’s also acceptable!
2. Articulation and warming up your voice
Before I was trained, I’d never thought about my pronounciation or looking after my voice at all! I don’t think it’s something most people think about, even when it comes to important moments when you have to speak, like interviews. Being able to speak clearly, not fumble over words, and being heard are important elements in both performance and interviews. Working on articulation for an interview is really key, especially if you have to use any fancy industry words (e.g. enfranchisement), or have a presentation as a part of your interview. So, here are a few techniques and exercises you can use before you enter the room.
- Humming is a great and subtle technique that can be done anywhere and will warm up your voice. When humming, the vibrations you make are warming up your mouth and loosening up your vocal folds; the part of your throat that produces your voice. This creates better resonance in your voice, making it sound more stable and powerful. Make sure when humming to have your lips closed loosely and your jaw unclenched. After a while, you may feel a slight tingle in your lips but this is a good thing! Try starting with one note, then use different notes to continue to warm up and stretch your voice, you could even hum your favourite song!
- Articulation exercises are great ways to get you warmed up and ready to speak eloquently, these enunciation exercises and tongue twisters are super helpful and normally a good laugh as well!
- Any ways of loosening your jaw will not only help with your voice but help with those pesky nerves I spoke about earlier. Having the face relaxed helps to get more sound out and makes it easier to move your mouth around those more complicated words. Any kind of massage to the face or jaw area works really well. Try pushing the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth, then placing your thumb under your chin and massaging the area.
- On that note, your tongue is also a great tool to help you loosen up your mouth, two exercises you can do are chewing/pretending to chew gum and drawing circles with the tip of your tongue on the inside of each of your cheeks, making sure the amount you do is equal on both sides.
3. Body Language
Body language is universal and, no matter what country you come from or what language you speak, you can read so much from the external signals someone’s body is giving out. They do say that a picture is worth a thousand words after all. It’s a key aspect of Drama so when you’re on stage, your whole body has to translate your emotions so that those people sitting in the gods can still grasp your intention. With TV and film, the smallest twitch of an eyebrow can indicate a million things. Similarly, in an interview, the person talking to you will (consciously or unconsciously) be taking in your body language and interpreting what it means. Here are some ways you can make sure you’re being read in the right way.
Back and Posture
Slouching and leaning on things can be seen as a sign of laziness or not being bothered, so make sure you’re sitting/standing upright, shoulders back and relaxed (go back to the Nerves section of this blog to sort that out). This makes you appear ready and confident.
Arms and Hands
Arms crossed and fidgety/hidden hands come across as closed off, nervous, and can even be interpreted as untrustworthy. Make sure you keep your arms in an open position so you look comfortable and calm in this environment and try to avoid fiddling with hair, pens, etc. However, I’m not saying you can’t use your hands at all. When talking, you can use them to gesture but just keep an eye out so you don’t get too carried away!
Legs and Feet
With nerves playing on you, you may feel like sinking into your interview chair and curling up in a little ball; which might make you unconsciously have your feet not solidly on the ground. This, according to Patti wood, messes with our ability to answer the difficult questions; “It’s not impossible, but it’s difficult to answer highly complex questions unless both of your feet are on the ground It has to do with being able to go back and forth easily between the limbic reptilian brain to the neocortex brain.” Basically, feeling centred and grounded gives you focus to be able to switch between different types of thought. So make sure your feet are on the ground and that you’re not sitting too far back on your chair.
Take a look at part 2 and part 3 for more tips from an actor!
Alex Louise is a member of the Operations team at Harvey John and has an extensive acting background.
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