4 Drama Exercises to Avoid an Interview Flop
Improve your interview performance with these drama exercises
We’ve all made interview mistakes. Stuttering, muttering, waffling, slouching; the list goes on. How you present yourself in an interview can have just as much impact as what you say. If it’s close between you and another candidate, radiating calm confidence could be the clincher. Treating an interview like an audition may seem strange, but they have the same essential basis; you’re selling yourself and what you can do. Drama exercises can be helpful in many areas, but especially in interviews. So turn your interview into a stand out performance, not a comedy or especially a tragedy. Make sure you get rave reviews AND your dream job.
Here are 4 areas where drama exercises can help give you an edge:
Now even though we all had our mothers drill good posture into us as children, it really can make a difference to how you’re perceived. A straight back holds a quiet air of self-assurance but you don’t want to seem stiff, so trying these techniques at home can help.
Sit in lots of different chairs. It may seem strange but you can’t be sure what sort of seat you’ll be offered on the day so go around your house and sit in different chairs. Place your coccyx as far back as you can then align your back with the back of the chair. Place both feet flat on the floor (if you can, if you’ve got short legs like me you can cross them at the ankles) and now imagine the golden thread. The golden thread is a technique in drama that requires little imagination but is very effective. Imagine you have a thread running from the bottom of your back, through the top of your head up to the ceiling. You want to keep this thread straight, if you slump or slouch the thread will snap. So in your chair keep your head straight forward, push your shoulders back and straighten your back but keep it feeling loose. Your shoulders should still be touching the back of the chair (if they’re not you may be over stretching which doesn’t look natural). Doing this consciously throughout your everyday routine will eventually ingrain it as a behaviour and you’ll not only look more assertive, but you’ll feel it too.
#2 Eye contact
Anyone who’s been to the theatre knows how powerful and actor’s eye contact can be.
Eye contact is essential in human communication and a lack of it can make you seem nervous or even deceptive. We also don’t want to cross the border into staring as that just makes everyone uncomfortable. There’s a couple of drama exercises for getting the balance right. If you’re being interviewed by more than one person, always make eye contact with the one speaking, but direct your answer to all of them, progressing gradually from one to another, just like you would if you were telling a story to friends.
Use a change of eye contact as a form of punctuation, for example:
"Interviewer 1: Tell us about your time at X company.
You: (To Interviewer 1) X company was a really good point in my career, (to interviewer 2) I learned so many new skills. (To int 1) When I joined their turnover was below national average, (to int 2) they were overdue some restructuring, (to int 1) and I had managed to double it in the time I was there."
This not only shows that you’re confident speaking to groups of people, it helps you naturally punctuate your answer which will give it a more natural flow. All the interviewers will feel included and like they’re seeing a genuine side of you. One way to practise this is to tell your answer to two or three friends and get them to raise their hands whenever they feel ignored, ensuring that you spread you attention evenly.
If you just have one interviewer, use the same punctuation technique but when you need to break the contact look slightly to one side (never down) and then back to them. They will naturally break it too, so it’s just finding the balance of looking engaged without staring. Also always deliver your impressive stats or achievements with eye contact; they’re they parts you want them to remember.
So now you look confident and you’ve got their attention, you need to sound it. Mumbling or stuttering in an interview conveys a lack of belief in your answers and you don’t want them to miss what you say. Even those with strong accents (proud Yorkshire woman here) can improve their enunciation and diction without it seeming false. Here are a few exercises to try:
- Tongue twisters. This may seem old-fashioned but a few mouth exercises really can make all the difference. Personal favourite include ‘red lorry, yellow lorry’ and ‘she sells sea shells’. Don’t focus on speed, focus on pronouncing each word as clearly as possible. After two or three minutes, you’ll find you naturally pronounce words better in normal conversation. Another one I favour may seem silly but it does have a significant impact. Stick your tongue out and count to 50 as clearly as you can. Then count 50-100 normally. Forcing your mouth to articulate around your tongue will instantly help diction, but maybe do this at home rather than in the waiting room.
- Projecting. It’s no good speaking clearly if they can’t hear you. This is easiest to practice with someone else. Sit or stand opposite each other and repeat a phrase or tongue twister whilst slowly moving back from each other. They should indicate when they are struggling to hear you so you know to increase the volume. Do not, however, end up shouting. You want to take deep breaths into your diaphragm and push the words forward from your chest not from the throat. If you can’t find someone to help, you can also imagine an invisible bucket that’s getting further away; you want the words to land in the bucket.
- Pauses. Speaking too fast means you will be more likely to stutter or fumble over your words. Taking a small pause before answering a question will give you a few seconds to form a coherent answer. If you’ve been offered a drink feel free to take a small sip (although avoid a cup and saucer if you’re very nervous, clattering china will give you away). To practice, write down some answers to common questions and punctuate them so that each segment ends with an important word. For example:
"I worked across several departments - which gave me an insight into their office dynamics - and allowed me to develop my interpersonal skills."
These slight pauses will not only draw attention to the parts you want them to focus on but will give your answers a sense of flow that prevents rambling or stumbling.
When it comes to memorising prepared answers there’s two great fears: forgetting it and it sounding false. Having answers ready can stop you from being tripped up by tricky questions. So here are two techniques for them:
- Break them down and tick them off. Say your answer has three key points, you want to label these as one, two and three and assign them just one word. Using the example above the important parts are departments, dynamics and interpersonal. Memorise your answer with focus on those words so you can mentally tick them off in the interview. It will make sure you’ve covered the main points you wanted to without going off on a tangent or missing anything.
- Turn it into a story. Just how telling a friend a story flows, so should your answer. Grab a friend and read your answer to them, then work out how it would flow if you were telling them a story. Tell it to them again and again, each time looking at your notes less than less. You might not get it word for word but you will get to a point where you can recount it as easily as you could your favourite joke. You can also do this is front of a mirror if you prefer. Knowing your answer will automatically help it sound natural as you’re focusing on the story and not on remembering your lines.
Interviews can be stressful time and when our bad habits seem to appear the most, but doing these drama exercises regularly in the time before will help you feel prepared, increase your confidence and help it project onto the interviewer. Break a leg!
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