Entertainers have a lot to teach us about grace under pressure. They audition, they perform before discerning audiences, and their work will be recorded—and critiqued again and again—for years to come.
As Jerry Seinfeld once claimed, “No one is more judged in civilized society than a comedian. Every twelve seconds you’re rated.”
If you think about it, that’s kind of like the interview process.
So, when you’re trying out for your next big gig, take lessons Jerry and other tried and true performers like Mariah Carey and Denzel Washington, who once advised, “Luck is when opportunity comes along and you’re prepared for it.”
Bring It Like Mariah
You know who you are, and you know what you’ve got—and on interview day, you’ve got to bring it. Remember, confidence is everything. So take along a totem that represents your inner strength—or your inner diva. Even Mariah has her butterflies. If you don’t already have a good luck charm, choose something that represents what you want to bring to your new position. Wear it or keep it in your pocket, where you can give it a glance, cop a feel, or just remember it’s there—and who you are.
Mariah can sing in five octaves, and has hit some of the highest notes ever recorded. Mimi’s got her whistle register: what do you have? Be sure to tout how your special ability will benefit your new company.
Even if your superpowers don’t exactly translate in terms of your new job, you can still activate them on the big day. While you’re waiting to be called in, imagine yourself doing what you do best. Think of a time when you were at your most confident or channel your inner Mariah by striking a few power poses until you’re confidence is flowing. That’s just the motivation you need to bring it.
Now let’s talk about what not to bring: the chewed-up Medium Point stick pen you pulled from a jumbo pack. If Mimi can have her mic bedazzled, you can buy a sturdy click pen in a single package.
Bring only your best to that board room, down to the very last detail.
Kill It Like Jerry
Here it comes: What is your greatest weakness? Don’t dread the question. Kill it! This is your opportunity to tell a funny story.
Interviewers are less interested in your weakness than they are in how you answer the question. You’ll want to show how you don’t take yourself too seriously—and how serious you are about self-improvement.
In Seinfeld’s hit show, the characters’ weaknesses would get them into ludicrously funny situations. Remember when the famously lazy George nearly relaxed himself to death? You’ll want to reveal a less incriminating flaw, and a more ambitious failed attempt that demonstrates your indomitable spirit.
Here’s a formula:
- Think of a time when a weakness of yours got you into a jam at work. A time when you really learned from your mishap.
- Then, describe the event, complete with backfire (so I had my phone balanced on the deliveries and my boss’ coffee in hand, when….)
- State the lesson. Stay in the comedy zone by starting with “Needless to say, I realized I needed to….” John Medina, biologist and author of Brain Rules, writes that the mind does not pay attention to boring things. If you can get your interviewer laughing, the release of dopamine will be “like a post-it note” that tells his brain, “remember this.” So tell a short, relatable story. Make it funny, and make it stick.
Bring it Home Like Denzel
To land something big, you can’t be all funny and flair. Just when you feel like you might be getting too familiar, it’s time to go deep for your Denzel Washington. Denzel should be your default setting. Sit up straight, use your most dignified voice, and allow everything you’ve been through to back up your act. You want your prospective employer to know that you have the inner strength necessary to perform under pressure.
Denzel also consistently scores high in public “likeability” ratings, and other actors love to work with him. You want your interviewer to feel warmly toward you, too. If you can channel his sincerity and gravitas, while convincing your interviewer of your dedication, versatility, and talent, then you’ll be the far-and- away favorite. You can bring home the gold by quoting Denzel, and meaning it: Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.
Post-interview, prop yourself up at a big desk like Jimmy Fallon, and compose your follow-up thank you note.
(Cue the music) Thank you, interviewer, for asking me all those stressful questions, so that I might sweat under my suit like Beyonce’s backup dancers.
You’ve got it down. You’ll be in the career spotlight in no time.