A job interview, like every other interaction, is a performance. If you want to succeed, you need to put your heart and soul into it. As usual, Hollywood provides a lesson in how to do that.
Among the many classes I took at Second City’s training center was a course on writing for TV and film. We all fancied ourselves writers, of course, and some definitely had ambitions to go out to Hollywood and become screenwriters.
So it was dismaying for many of us to learn about the business end of the process. People thought you just submit a blockbuster script, the studio people read it, judge it on its merits, approve it and suddenly you’re on Hollywood’s A-list.
In reality, though, scripts have to be pitched. You sit down at a table and “sell” your idea, walking the studio people through the beats of the story and getting them excited and on board. You have about 5-8 minutes to summarize your sitcom pilot, a little longer for your full-length feature.
You could have the next Schindler’s List on your hands, but if you fail to perform at the pitch, your idea could be sunk. Likewise, many lesser concepts get the greenlight on the power of the creator’s pitch.
Before Ricky Gervais was a household name, he and his writing partner had a little idea for a show called The Office. They pitched it to BBC, and here was the result:
Jon Plowman, a veteran British comedy producer who was the BBC’s head of comedy entertainment at the time, recalls Gervais and Merchant as more excited than standoffish about the potential project. “In their heads it was already a hit in Britain and a hit in the U.S., and they were absolutely certain about it,” Plowman told me. “And that sort of thing is infectious, and you think, Well, hooray — if they believe it, then I’ll believe it. And maybe the actors will believe it, and maybe the viewers will believe it eventually.”
This is what you have to do in a job interview. In a competitive market like this, qualifications alone are not enough to make you stand out. You have to show enthusiasm and passion — a true belief in yourself that is irresistible to interviewers.
If this doesn’t come naturally to you and you need help, here are ten questions to ask yourself that will help get your passions flowing.
That’s how I landed a job as press secretary for a state attorney general. I’d done some media relations work before, but never on that scale or with that intensity. But I was passionate about government and politics and eager to learn. I remember in my final interview the AG turned to his chief of staff and said, “I like him — he’s hungry.”
That’s how you have to show up for your interview. With a hearty appetite, ready to dig in.