Get cast in a new job

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 shine…fast. 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!