*Photo by Justin Patterson
Surviving and Thriving the Job Interview
(HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!! This is the first post I wrote, but I was saving it for the most appropriate time to release it...AUDITION SEASON!!!! So as I'm lifting a glass to a great 2018, I hope every one of my Bulletprooof Bette readers gets the job of their dreams, and that each of you finds artistic fulfillment and financial security this season. Now time to put on your hairspray hard hat and your snowboots and go to what I consider the real workday of Bulletproof Bette.)
Theatre auditions have to be one of the most grueling parts of my life that a Bette faces on a regular basis. It’s not a battle, it’s a war. There is major wisdom to be gleaned from this gauntlet we place in front of us. Audition season, (the later fall and early spring) is this multi-daily, half naked, mass job interview, day after day, week after week, month after month, until you have your season booked, or everything is over and you are unemployed. I’ve had both happen.
The thing to take away from this is: ITS NOT PERSONAL.
I say this in caps because it’s really not about you as a person when you walk into that room; it’s about what puzzle piece the creative team needs, and how much you cost. Not that you ever want to seem anything less than a high quality choice, but what it actually costs to hire you is the same reason corporations move their business to Bangladesh.
A fellow ballet dancer turned showgirl made the best analogy during audition season: “When you walk into a store looking for a sequin dress, and you see many dresses that don’t work for you, but then you spy two dresses, one with feathers, and one with sequins, you might even like the feather dress more, but what you needed was a sequin dress. You may even end up coming back for that feather dress for another occasion, but the sequin dress is what you needed, and so that's what you buy.” In this analogy, the dresses are you. You might be the greatest feather dress ever made, but they need sequins, so you are left on the shelf. But sometimes they are looking for the feather dress and you are there, ready to go. The perfect find. The point is that the people hiring you cannot be the basis for your sense of self worth. You have so much to offer, and someone is going to see it and choose you when the time is right.
So…let me take you through my day. I’m going to lay out the worst-case scenarios that I have encountered, and how I would handle them. Hopefully you don’t deal with all of them in the same day but…. good to be prepared, right?!?
Its 6am and you are up. (Ungodly hour). You have three roommates, all post college boys, and you’ve got three auditions today, before you go to work your survival job. Its snowing out, February, but they are not cancelling. You are GOING.
Hopefully you did your homework, and have your music ready in case you get asked to stay and sing, or for that extra audition you will try to squeeze in, resumes cut and stapled too, so you don’t have to think about it. Even better if you planned your outfit(s), and have it and ALL your dance shoes in your bag. You might even have a separate shoe bag, but better if all of it can fit in your backpack. Because lord knows you aren’t going to take a cab from 190th and St Nicholas Blvd to 34th St. You are taking the MTA. Hope you woke up early enough to miss rush hour, get your coffee, and be the first Bette in line!
Sometimes I don’t have time to make copies, or I run out, so knowing where the nearest Kinkos Fedex, or Staples is to your house or even better, the building you are going to. If you are lucky, all your calls will be near each other, and you can hop on line from one to the other. If not, plan wisely. Prioritize. Use the map on your phone. Which appointment is the most important? The second most, and so forth. One record day, I made it to four auditions, when I was “non-equity” (not a member of the actors union, so I had to wait for the union members to audition first) but this was only made possible by them being all next door to each other.
I have developed now a personal policy of only doing three appointments per day out of the house, unless they are all near each other, in which the number may be four. That’s the best match for me of quantity vs quality. They are not always so perfectly scheduled next door to each other though. During one season, I lived way uptown, auditioned in midtown, and my survival jobs were halfway out on Long Island, in Westchester County, and Staten Island. (These were on different days but still, sheesh!) Commuting will kill you. No seriously, there are studies saying it will cut your lifespan. Limit this if you can.
A quick bit about audition outfits; They should make you feel 1. beautiful, 2. allude to the role you are auditioning for, (if any role), and 3. NOT be a costume. Figure out what works on your body and is appropriate for the show (do your research!) What a person wears to the Chicago call is not what they should wear for Wicked. They have very different vibes and when you show up knowing what that vibe is, you communicate to casting and the creatives that you did your homework. And again, don't come "in costume"! Thats too much. And don't underestimate the power of the right shoes.
Ok, we have to talk about your hair, and your face. New York is not nice to these parts of your body. Especially in winter. Our atmosphere is not nice to these parts either! You live with boys, and there is one bathroom. The early bird gets the worm, but you also need enough sleep to give a great showing. And in the winter, lack of sleep WILL make you sick. Figure out all of that roommate shit right now. Write it down when you move in if you have to, even if one of those boys is your boyfriend. Those boys might be in the biz too, and then you are going to have to really plan your mornings. Do you want to fight at 6am about whose audition is more important? I don’t think so. Be kind and flexible, but make a plan.
Don’t complete doing your hair or face at home. Remember that blizzard outside? It’s going to destroy you. Get to the location of your auditions and get in line, then complete your face and hair. (What I mean by this is get your foundation down at home before heading out, and maybe some or all of the powder elements, but don't put on the lashes or lipstick on or fluff your hair out until you are inside your audition building.) Generally at an audition, there is a room for us to wait in, usually a dance studio, where there are full-length dance room mirrors, and about two electric outlets. I understand that your job interview might not have this luxury, and you might only have a tiny bathroom to get ready in. This is where knowing your location really helps. If you have an interview on the 15th floor of a building across town, and you have to arrive looking perfect, (which you DO, make no mistake, because they make their decision about you in the first 30 seconds), make friends with that downstairs security guard, and get that first floor bathroom access. If there isn’t one of those, try another floor in the building, or a neighboring building, so when your future boss sees you, they see the pulled together bulletproof professional they need. The point is, no matter what; don’t walk in looking a mess.
All right…so you’ve pulled yourself together and walked in the room. Be ready for a surprise. Be ready for them to mess with you. Be ready for other people who are going for the job to mess with you. Either because it makes them feel better about themselves, or they want to see how you handle pressure. Resist the urge to do it back (to other auditioners, not casting). This kind of behavior used to piss me off so much, I’d be furious. Then I realized…it wasn’t about me. It was about them. Their insecurity, their method, their power trip. The thing to see here is that when it comes to the interviewer (aka. casting/creative teams in our case) even though they might be interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Do you want to work for someone who feels a need to mess with you? Do you need that stress in the workplace? The sooner you see them for whom they are, the quicker you can make a choice. Just keep smiling as you evaluate.
On this note, I have two things to say. One, identifying what personalities you would and would not want to work with lets you make stronger choices, and two, sometimes its worth working with that a-hole narcissist to move ahead in your career. Weigh the options. Only you know if it’s the right choice for you. I happen to have a low threshold for this kind of stuff, but you might be fine with it. Mutual respect goes a long way with Bette!
And finally, in the words of a very well known and respected actor/director, Michael Kostroff who has just written a fabulous book Audition Psych 101 “You weren’t getting the job anyway” so get really good and make peace with the interview. It’s a one-show run of the play, and your audition is the show. More often than not, if you come in with that kind of attitude, you are calm, relaxed and focused, you put the interviewer/ casting/ director/ choreographer at ease, and they in turn want that calm focused energy in their rehearsal process, and will want you for the job.
After the interview, give yourself 5-10 min to think about it, what you could do better, what went well, write it down, and then go do something fun. Always have a fun plan for after because you will be less likely to stew on what you did or didn't do, which helps no one. Move on, because tomorrow (and for the rest of the week…and for the next few months) there are three more of these to go! Break a Leg!
Bulletproof Bette shares her wisdom in the first ever Showgirl’s Guide to surviving and thriving in a city and industry that wants to eat you for lunch. Get exclusive content when you sign up below!