Improv: How To Think On Your Feet In An Interview

The guidelines of improvisation apply to more than just the stage. Use these tips and you won’t get caught off guard at your next interview.

Professional man using improv techniques in an interview with female hiring manager

The skills and techniques of improv can be applied successfully in many areas of life, including in interviewing. The goal of improv isn’t to be clever or funny. Rather, the goal is to work with your scene partners to bring the best out of each other. Here’s how you can follow improv tactics to succeed in your next interview. 
 
Step into their world
In improv, the scene isn’t about focusing on you. It’s about building the scene. You first have to imagine that you are in a new place and act accordingly. In improv this is a rule of thumb called “step into their world.” It’s meant to get you to focus on other people and the setting, rather than making yourself and your personality the center of attention. In an interview, you’re also in a new scene that’s larger than yourself. Even if it feels like you’re the center of attention, remember you’re there to show how you fit into the whole picture. What role can you play? How can you contribute a part of the scene? 
 
Listen 
If may seem like a good idea to have some clever one-liners ready to go for your moment on stage. But as any improv performer can tell you, having a prefabricated set of lines is the kiss of death for scene. It disrupts the natural flow of the conversation. Instead, a performer must truly listen to their partners and understand what they’re trying to convey. Only by listening and being in the moment can the conversation work. In your interview, pay attention and truly listen to the questions being asked. Don’t cut the person off or start to answer without fully grasping what is being asked. Actively listen with your eyes, ears and face. Not only will this help you answer, it shows the interviewer that you’re fully engaged. 
 
Say yes verbally, physically and mentally 
Many are familiar with the “yes, and…” rule of improv. In other words, give examples and keep the momentum going after answering a question. But just as important is to commit to that yes. Don’t do it halfway. This starts even before the interview. Do you really want this job? Do you really care? If so, then make your “yes” visible in your body language, your attitude and your language. 
 
Let go of your needs to control 
This is the biggest rule of improv. If you try to control the scene, you’ll make everyone tense and disrupt the flow. It’s natural to feel the same need to control and interview, but that produces the same negative outcomes. Go into the interview with an open mind, step into their world, listen, and let the scene unfold. Your audience will reward you with their respect, admiration, and hopefully a new job. 
 
Of course, the advice above for improv can be easier said than done, so that’s why the best improvisers have years of practice and experience. To best take advantage of these techniques, practice a mock interview with a friend or mentor. Better yet, take an improv class before you sit down to interview. 
 
Related Interviewing Advice: 
Tips for Interviewing for Management and Leadership Roles
5 Things Not to Say in a Job Interview
3 Job Interview Skills You Must Master