Six Interview Tips from “America’s Got Talent”

The nation’s most popular TV show this summer is “America’s Got Talent”, according to the Nielsen ratings. Watching this show offers a great opportunity to see extreme job interviews in action. Often humorous, sometimes touching, these televised talent auditions take place in front of a live audience and three judges. They demonstrate how you can win (or lose) at your next job interview.

Here are 6 important pointers that “America’s Got Talent” can provide the job seeker:

1. Take an Objective Look at Yourself

There’s nothing more pathetic than to watch someone walk on stage and screech out a song off key. The judges’ buzzers go off, the audience boos, and the TV viewer is left feeling a mix of disgust and pity for the contestant.

The lesson here is to take an objective look at yourself. Having a realistic view of your talents, abilities, skills and benefits coupled with a reality-grounded understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, are imperative to winning a job. If you don't have the chops, you'll be quickly busted in the interview.

2. Avoid Overselling

It is especially pathetic to see a contestant bomb after bragging beforehand about his talents, thus setting high expectations for his performance. There seems to be a pattern among the contestants in which the ones who pump themselves up the most before their performance seem to bomb the biggest.

As a candidate, it’s important to avoid making promises that can’t be fulfilled. It’s better to be modest and humble, and exceed expectations, than to blow your horn and come off looking arrogant. Hot air and chutzpah aren’t enough.

3. Stay Cool Under Fire

This may appear obvious, but it’s amazing how many contestants argue or get combative when they face a less than positive response from the judges about their talents and abilities. Sometimes the judges are undecided about whether to vote them through to the next round. Getting emotional with the judges can tip them over into the “no” column.

Likewise, it’s risky business to lose your cool or argue with a job interviewer. People will often rally behind you if you quietly and confidently show your talent and abilities rather than arguing or having to be right. It’s a lot easier for an interviewer to say “yes” to someone who is positive, likable and easy to get along with.

4. Tell Your Stories

Recently, a contestant named Donald Braswell turned a booing audience into a cheering audience. A father of three, Braswell had been a professional singer until a car accident damaged his vocal cords. He described how it took him 11 years to regain his speech and especially his ability to sing again. Then he belted out “You Raise Me Up”. The audience at first booed him. As he persevered by singing through the booing, the audience started to cheer and clap. He sang his way to the next round by both telling his story and performing with dignity and courage.

While not advisable to tell a sob story, it’s important to describe instances when you overcame adversity or solved a crisis. Let the interviewer know what you had to do to get to where you are today. A story personalizes your achievement, makes you more memorable and gives the interviewer a window into your essence.

5. Nothing Beats Genuine Connection

Winning contestants have an incredible ability to connect or bond with their audience and the judges. They are able to truly be themselves. Sometimes the most charming examples of this skill are displayed by children who come onstage and speak with total honesty and straightforwardness.

Winning job applicants have the ability to positively connect with the interviewer. It’s important to be open and genuine from the time you greet your interviewer, and to be at ease. The goal is to be yourself all the way through to your final handshake.

This includes finding moments to be human and to connect with the other person. It could be an opportunity to share a source of humor, or to empathize about something in common. The most successful applicants are those who can put the interviewer at ease, realizing that an interviewer can get nervous during an interview as well.

6. Watch Your Body Language

Whether you’re a contestant on a talent show or a job applicant, it’s important to present yourself without having your guard up. People can pick up on your anxiety, fear and other negative emotions through your nonverbal communication, including your body language. Your ability to win a job just might come down to your body language.

It’s easy to see the effects of body language while watching the “America’s Got Talent” contestants. In the acting business, repeated nervous hand gestures are called “clowns”. Job candidates need to watch for clowns and other nervous energy dissipaters as well.

If you're looking to score on your next job interview, take a look at “America’s Got Talent” to be reminded of some important do's and don'ts. It brings a wealth of entertainment but it also teaches lessons about what separates the winners from the losers in both the entertainment business and the job market.