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Before Your First Interview

Contributed By Kenna McHugh

Before you go through an actual interview, you should first go through a rehearsal interview. Ask a friend, family member or neighbor to play the role of the interviewer. By doing this you'll place yourself at the cutting edge of the job hiring process because reportedly very few newcomers to film practice their interview technique. The majority of them end up stumbling through several interviews before they have any practical sense of how they are doing.

The rehearsal interview is more than just a chance to work out your uncertainties in the interview. It is an opportunity to practice your interview technique and answers live with a real person to critique you honestly. It is easier to hear constructive feedback from someone who you know well enough (hopefully) that they can guide you toward improving your interview style and presentation.

You will be surprised at how just one rehearsal interview will result in a marked improvement in your interview skills. Why? For the same reason that an actress rehearses before each audition, she learns her lines and rehearses and rehearses until she has it down cold. She is not ready for the audition until she can confidently portray her character realistically and flublessly.

This is the same process with interviewing. It is not enough to look at an interview question and say, "Yeah, I know the answer to that one." You need to practice your answer -- live and in front of someone else. This is not the time to talk to yourself in front of the mirror. Seek out assistance and practice. Ideally, have the session videotaped. That way, you will have two opinions -- the rehearsal interviewer's and your own.

Remember that there is a totally different perspective in listening to yourself saying something that is existing or happening at the same period of time versus the objective observation of watching yourself later on videotape. Just as your voice always sounds different on tape, so do your answers. "Did I really say that?" Yes, you did.

Aren't you glad the image is captured on tape (which can later be erased), rather than in a potential production manager mind's eye? Yes, you are. Just like the example of the actress. She takes workshops on audition techniques. She rehearses and watches the playbacks. So, when she goes to the audition she is "exterior" to the audition. Just like you should be "exterior" to your job interview.

Go through at least one rehearsal interview. For maximum effectiveness, review yourself. Take one flaw at a time. Correct the flaw and then go through a second rehearsal interview. Find another flaw and correct. Keep at it until you feel confident and know you can handle that interview for that job.

Many interview experts agree that interviews fail because of lack of proper communication. But communication is more than just what you say. Often it is the nonverbal communication that you are least aware of, yet speaks the loudest.

Following are the top five nonverbals, ranked in order of importance, when it comes to interviews. (Note: use the technique of videotaping your rehearsal interviews to help you discover if you need to work on any of these top five nonverbals.)

Eye Contact -- Do not just assume you have good eye contact. Ask. Watch. Then practice. Some people maintain excellent eye contact while listening, but lose eye contact when speaking. Or vice versa. Sit down with a friend and practice until you are comfortable maintaining sincere, continuous eye contact.

Facial Expressions -- Look at yourself as others would. Then modify your facial expressions -- first eliminate any negative overall characteristics that might exist, then add a simple feature that nearly every interviewee forgets to include -- a smile! You do not need to keep the smile plastered on for the full interview, but remember to keep coming back to it. Think about it -- whom would you rather spend thirty minutes with?

Posture -- Posture sends out a signal of your confidence and power potential. When you are seated, make sure you sit at the front edge of the chair, leaning slightly forward and intent on the subject at hand.

Gestures -- contrary to popular belief, gestures should be very limited during the interview. When you do use gestures, make sure they are natural and meaningful.

Space -- Recognize the boundaries of your personal space and that of others. If you have a smaller than average personal space, make sure you keep your distance so that you do not intimidate someone who possesses a larger personal space.

In my next column I will discuss other ways to approach the interview process as a supplement to Before Your First Interview.

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