9 Improv Interview Preparation Exercises

As I began to do more interview coaching for clients in various industries, I searched the internet to source ideas to help my clients relax and feel more confident. I came across some excellent ideas based on improv exercises[1] , which I modified for a workshop.

Here are those exercises.

I encourage you to try out a few and have fun! Step out of your comfort zone and try something new.

Dust Off Your Imagination

Grab any object in your house – a water bottle or a chair – and use it a way that it wasn’t originally intended. For example, instead of being used to hold water, a water bottle can instead become a pirate telescope or a lightsaber. When turned around, a chair becomes a window looking out over a field or the bars of a prison cell.

This exercise is one that is often used in actual interviews to test creativity and flexibility.

Listen to the Last Letter

For this exercise, you’ll need a friend or family member’s help. With your partner, pretend you’re in a specific situation – for example, on a bus. Start a conversation using the last big idea of your partner’s sentence. For instance, you could say, “I’m so glad we’re going to the grocery store. My cupboards are empty.” Your partner would then say, “Yes, having empty cupboards is such a pain. That’s why I love case lot sales.” and so forth.

This conversational game enforces listening and promotes not having an agenda when you speak. This technique requires you to listen until the end of each sentence before you respond so you will identify and reply to the “big idea” correctly.

If you are like many people and need thinking time, this exercise will help you think on your feet.

Make Honesty Your “Own” Middle Name

When you go into that interview, to borrow the words of Jeremy Brothers, artistic director of Improv Asylum in the Boston area, you want to be“…able to own your own deal and be honest.” Before going to your interview, take some time to look at what isn’t great about you and what you can do to prevent falling back into old unproductive patterns.  As Brothers  stated, “…funny and self-effacing can be refreshing.”

An honest and self-aware response to “What is your greatest weakness” is required. Show that you are human, have flaws, and have taken steps to improve yourself.

Get Loose

It’s time to do some Shake ‘em 8s! Designed to help you be fully present, and in the moment, this warm-up exercise enables you to get out of your head. First, you hold your right arm out and shake your right hand, counting up to 8, then repeat the shake and count for your left hand, right foot, and left foot. Then repeat the whole process counting down from 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2, until you finally shake each limb one time.

Play Pretend

It’s time to fake it until you make it! Pair up with a friend, or record yourself solo, talking about a topic you know nothing about.  You don’t have to make any sense or even talk about it correctly; instead, focus on practicing speaking authoritatively. Then, when you need to talk about something you do know about, you’ll realize you know more than you give yourself credit for.

Let’s face it… we don’t know everything about everything. This exercise will build your confidence!

Talk and Talk Some More

The perfect exercise for someone who feels self-conscious or doesn’t know what to say next, this activity involves asking yourself a question – for example, “What interested you about this role?” Next, you start talking, without stopping or judging yourself in your head, keeping it going as long as you can think of things to say.  The phrase “I need to start over” is not allowed!

In an interview, you must answer every question… ready or not. The interviewer is testing your ability to think on your feet and how you handle stress.

Play Good Cop/Bad Cop

This exercise, in the words of Rebecca Stuard, creative director of Improvolution in the New York City area, “breeds acceptance and teamwork in any situation because it forces you to ‘defend’ the other side.” First up, grab a partner. Next, come up with a situation with potential conflict – Stuard’s suggestion: parents at a police station after their kids are picked up for underage drinking. One of you assumes the role of an uptight do-gooder, the other someone laid back who thinks laws are meant to be broken. Start a conversation where you both take turns expressing how you feel and respond. Once the conversation comes to a natural conclusion, stop it, and repeat switching roles.

Word Turn

To help with reacting and adapting to an unexpected question, and to develop the skills needed to tell coherent stories in real-time, practice making up stories based on a random word or sentence you find in a news article you haven’t read before.

Practice, practice, practice… and at interview time, you will shine.

Feel the Room

Jeremy Brothers, artistic director of Improv Asylum in the Boston area, shares, “One of the ways we teach people how to play characters in improv, is to think about status—the comfort level someone has in any given situation or environment. Someone with high status can own a situation outright; someone with low status might struggle.”

What does this mean for an interview? Well, when you’re at the interview, approach it as if everyone there is trying to sell you working at their company. If you buy what they are selling, ask yourself if you want to see these people every do. If you do, great, and hopefully, they reciprocate. If not, it’s likely not the right job for you.

For additional interview preparation tips and advice, we’re always just a phone call or email away. A good resume with quantified skills and achievements will often land the interview, but rocking the interview requires more than just possessing the right skills for the job. Whether your interview skills are rusty, it’s not something you enjoy, or for reasons you’re unaware of your interviews are not landing you the job, we can help with our professional interview preparation services.

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[1] Many of these ideas were modified from https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/improv-job-interview-exercises

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