Al Gilbert: A Job Interview Is An Audition

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Al Gilbert says that the key to a successful job interview is to realize that it's not really a job interview.

Unemployment is at an all time low. New job hires increased last month and wages grew about 5%. It would seem a great time to find a job - and yet, thousands of well-qualified candidates have not for more than 18 months. Why is that?

In spite of being well qualified, many candidates don’t realize that the one-on-one interview is not an interview—it’s an audition. A conversation with a police officer is an interview—where the questioner cares less about you than about completing a transaction. But the hiring manager cares less about the position than who you are. They’re not looking just to hire—they’re looking to fall in love.

In entertainment, it’s called a cattle call. In business, it’s called recruiting. In both, it’s an audition. Theatrical directors and hiring managers don’t really know what they’re looking for until they find it. For example, the role calls for a young woman between 25 and 35; or the job calls for a HR professional with at least five years experience. Both roles require that “It” factor which is never recognized until it walks through the door.

How do you prepare for the “audition”? As a career coach, I suggest doing what an actor does: by researching the part, and if possible, living the role. As actors have spent two or three days in prison to prepare for a prison drama, a job candidate could ask to shadow an HR professional at work for a time.


While directors seek actors who can sell the character; hiring managers seek employees who can sell the product—whether it's a B2B service or an internal HR policy. No one was born to be an actor, or a sales person. They’re both skills that evolve over years of trial, error, success, and failure.

If you don’t get the part, or the job, do what all actors do. Move on to the next audition; and do what’s necessary to pay the bills. The key is to keep moving and believe in your craft.

Since “all the world’s a stage,” it matters little if the stage is theatrical or corporate. If you ask, “How much of an act must I play to get the job?,” the answer is, “How much do you want the part?”

With a Perspective, I’m Al Gilbert

Al Gilbert is a life and career coach in Brisbane.