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Interview technique - "Never underestimate how much people don’t know"

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I’m guessing most of the readers of this blog have been for an interview (or audition) at some point in their lives, and after some rejections, got a job/part.  If you’re like me you may have applied for hundreds of jobs, been to scores of interviews, been rejected loads of times, and yet had a goodly share of jobs/parts to pepper a cv and make your mother proud. We have life experience, and we’ve learned by experience.  But remember your first time…

At the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds our Head of Creative Learning,  our director/corporate trainer Associate, our External Relations Assistant with a specialism helping people find confidence through creativity and I, have been working together to create a course for young people. On Wednesday night we did our first trial run and we had 5 local students aged 16-19.  The aim of the trial was to see whether we could shape a packed 3hours that would give visceral and involving experience, rather than classroom teaching, to help them as they prepare to go for jobs, college interviews, and have to face the suits of this world.

Lynn Whitehead, our inspired Creative Learning head often reminds us never to underestimate how much people don’t know.  We shouldn’t be embarrassed showing work experience kids how a photocopier works, or even how to make a great cup of tea…these are all useful skills they may not try at home !.

But this evening was special for me.  From a shy circle of strangers with at least one declaring most decidedly that they’d rather not be there (despite coming of their own choice), we worked to give them more confidence in themselves and the alien environment of interviews.  By the end they were all holding their heads up high, walking in Second Circle (although we didn’t share the inspiration of Patsy Rodenburg’s amazing book on Presence with them),  arriving for an interview,  settling down with confidence, and talking about their own skills that they could bring to the world of tourism or hotels, the motor industry or the National Trust.  They were thinking quicker, helping each other, and gaining confidence.

If you are a parent with a wii-withdrawn teenager or an xfactor starstruck luvvie, think whether there are other ways to bring them awareness of their inherent skills. Think whether there are other ways to get them connecting and supporting their peers.  Think whether there are other ways to give them an experience of interviews and the suits.  And help them be aware of the first impressions that they make.  Maybe your local theatre has a programme similar to ours.  And if you are reading this and living in Suffolk or within access of the Theatre Royal, do get in touch and join us for The Art of Getting It.

We started the evening with a Worry Chart – inviting them to score how they were feeling about the world of work using their reaction to 20 words from Scared to Nauseous,  OK to Excited.  At the end of the evening they filled in a new chart and, although deeply unscientific, there was a 38-41% improvement in their feelings about certain words. 

My sense is that they had been welcomed into a safe place (without teachers or parents expecting of them), given rather crazy things to do,  encouraged to try the most scary 1minute exercise anyone ever does,  and honoured for who they are and where they are in the process of entering the wider world of work.   In my day the sensible people went into a job for life (unless you go towards the theatre business). Now we are talking portfolio careers or eternal debt laden study or worse.  Now more than ever before we need to help each person unlock their potential and realise they have something to offer.     Remember most theatres in the UK do lots more than open their doors to smartly dressed theatregoers at 7pm each evening – they are a fantastic community resource behind the red plush.  

Go hunting for how your theatre can help you, your family, or the young people you come into contact with.

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