What Improv Comedy Taught Me About Job Interviews

Three years ago I signed up for my first improv class because it terrified me— and when you're sitting on a park bench alone the day after your birthday, that's when you're going to sign up for something that scares you stiff. A few months after my first class, I signed up for an audition, again because it terrified me. Walking into a room full of expectant faces who have the power to reject you can be daunting, especially when you don't know what to expect. Suffice to say, improv auditions have a lot in common with job interviews.

You have to understand, I am the type of person who (before improv auditions) was terrified of job interviews. Sure, I could ace them as an overachiever, but that same sensibility is what caused my anxiety in the first place. I had to get the job because I had to be perfect. Oh, the pressure that I put on myself. Improv auditions changed that for good.

In an improv audition, you are placed in a group of between ten and twenty people. Silently, everyone files in the room trying to be as relaxed as they know they should be. You line up in front of a group of auditors, who just like your prospective employer, sit behind a desk while they decide whether or not you are a "good fit." You introduce yourself. You say a fun fact to help them remember you, and then you do about ninety-seconds of improv, and hope that it goes well.

If it sounds terrifying, it certainly can be. At first, it was, until I discovered this one truth: the people on the other side of the table— the individuals whose admiration I so desperately wanted and who scared the bejeezus out of me — they were not there to sit in judgment. Their primary objective was not to reject me. This was a huge realization because even more than I wanted to nail the audition, the people watching wanted me to nail it.

What a revelation! When a room is rooting for you, it changes everything. And knowing a room was rooting for me, believing it, allowed me to let go of all that perfectionism (and therefore, anxiety) in auditions and in job interviews.

Holding auditions— and conducting job interviews— is exhausting. They want you to be the one. It would make their day to have you come in and hit it out of the park.

The same is true of hiring managers. They've been sifting through resumes, true. They're exhausted, true. The thing that they want most is for you to be the person they're looking for so that they can finally go to lunch and cross something off their to-do list.

We all wish that we had those convenient connections that allow you to land, your dream job, and it's true that for some people, it will always be easier than it is for the rest of us (#nepotism), but when you realize that your prospective employer is sitting on the other side of the table, hoping that you will be the one who ends their search, job interviews can be a lot less scary.