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Posted: July 27, 2012

Get cast in a new job

Four acting tips to help you land the role

Julie Hansen

I've been asked to speak a lot lately at job networking and career transition groups. Although my message is typically targeted to salespeople, it is equally relevant - and critical - for job-seekers in today's market.

The interview process is selling at its very core, for you are selling the most important product of all: yourself. With vast numbers of people looking for work, the competition is stiffer than ever and the need to stand out and make a memorable first impression is paramount. The old days of simply showing up with the right experience and the right resume are gone. Now, engineers are expected to not only demonstrate skill, but personality, too! Those who have been unemployed for longer than they can comfortably explain or afford need to display a level of confidence that they don't necessarily feel.

Standing out in the job market is more challenging than ever. When anyone can go on-line to find "the best resume" or "the best answers to interview questions," what is going to set you apart? If you can't deliver something more in person, you are just another prospect that looks good on paper and can parrot back a cliche' answer. Today's job-seekers need to have that quality we refer to in certain actors called, "presence." Presence is what makes you compelling and memorable. As I tell my clients, they can't hire you if they can't remember you!

I learned a lot about standing out and having presence as an actor in New York. Being thrown into a room with a hundred other women who are just slightly different versions of yourself all vying for the same role makes you realize the need to quickly differentiate yourself from the pack. I learned a few lessons from that experience that have served me well in sales and are equally applicable to the interview process:

1. Let your personality Don't wait until 10 minutes into the interview or you will be nine minutes too late.
2. Pick out the most interesting aspects of who you are or what you do and weave them into your introduction or answer to common questions such as "tell me about yourself." NPR recently profiled a woman who was out of work for two and a half years and during that time won $50,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Sharing this at a job interview was not only a great icebreaker, but also showed the potential employer that she had initiative and creativity.
3. If you're going to use a formula answer keep in mind that a lot of other people are, too. Take the time to tailor it to fit your personality and practice it until it feels natural coming out of your mouth, as opposed to bad Shakespeare.
4. Believe you are the best person for the job before you walk in the door - and hang on to it no matter what!

This last point is key. Many people I end up working with have already had some coaching on how to come across with more confidence and enthusiasm by making external changes. I've found that trying to change how we present ourselves to the world by focusing solely on the outside usually doesn't ring true or last. It harkens back to acting's old days when actors would "indicate" feelings and emotions as opposed to delivering the authentic responses we expect from today's actors. In life too, most of us can spot a fake smile and a falsely bolstered sense of confidence. Real confidence and enthusiasm is unmistakable, but it requires change from the inside out. Acting techniques can help you gain real confidence and access your "inner performer" in order to win the role, the sale or the job. The bottom line for today's job-seekers is this: Prepare to stand out - or prepare to go on a lot of interviews!

Julie Hansen helps sales and business executives differentiate their solution and deliver winning presentations by leveraging proven performance skills from film, stage and improv.  The founder of Performance Sales and Training, Julie’s techniques have been adopted by Fortune 500 companies across the globe, including IBM, Oracle, SAP and local Colorado companies to gain a competitive selling edge.  Julie is an international speaker, sales trainer and the author of ACT Like a Sales Pro!  Learn more about workshops and keynotes at, start a sales conversation at  or connect with Julie on LinkedIn.

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Readers Respond

Thanks for helping get the word out, Julie. I've been hosting a free weekly MeetUp at the Denver Press Club and we use that exact title: IMPROVE YOUR 'PRESENCE.' Meets Wednesday nights at 6PM, and we practice public speaking, have coaches come in to teach us relevant skills, and we IMPROVE OUR PRESENCE. For FREE. You should come one night and share 20 min of your knowledge, I'm sure everyone would love that. By David Sneed on 2012 07 27
Julie, it's great that you are able to help others learn some of the sophisticated mental and emotional training techniques that actors master. Great actors, athletes, sales professionals and all great leaders learn how to access and create the emotional state they need to be in for that moment in time. By TC North on 2011 07 25
Great article and so true. Confidence and enthusiasm that is genuine not fake or forced is priceless. You can spot the people that are faking it until they make it. That is just too hard to sustain in the long term. Liz By liz wendling on 2011 07 21
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