Interview Tips from Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Cranston

by Derek Loosvelt | November 29, 2017

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guy interviewing girl

Interviews can be stressful and anxiety-inducing, but they don't have to be. In fact, if you can change your attitude and approach to interviews, it's conceivable that they can be as stress-free as a coffee break. That said, changing your attitude to interviewing is no easy task; it could take some time. And so, to get you started on the path to stress-free interviewing, I want to point to two inspiring podcasts with helpful tips on how to calm your interview nerves: one featuring legendary musician Bruce Springsteen, and another with award-winning actor Bryan Cranston.

Springsteen's "mental jujitsu"

It's hard to believe there was a time when Bruce Springsteen was just a guy with a guitar playing gigs at dive bars in New Jersey. But back before he was selling out football stadiums and a ticket to his one-man Broadway show cost more than $8,500, the Boss was an unknown, unsigned musician. All that changed when he auditioned for perhaps the most successful A&R man who's ever lived: iconic Columbia Records producer Jon Hammond, who famously discovered Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin, among countless others.

Springsteen had to borrow a guitar for his audition, and he bused into Manhattan from New Jersey to meet with Hammond. Here's how Springsteen, speaking on The New Yorker Radio Hour podcast, describes that audition, which launched his career and changed his life.

Going up up in the elevator, I was a little nervous. I had two choices. I could say, 'Well, okay, this is your moment, Mr. Big Shot, when you're gonna see if you got anything, or you don't.' I decided not to do that to myself. And instead, I tried to do a little mental jujitsu where I said, 'Well, I have nothing, so I have nothing to lose. If nothing happens, I'm going to walk out the same as I walked in.' And I almost convinced myself of it by the time I got up there.

That last line is likely untrue, because after Springsteen played one song for Hammond, the legendary producer had a big smile on his face and said, "You need to be on Columbia Records."

The point here is that Springsteen needed to calm his nerves, and no amount of extra preparation was going to do that. He was prepared. He knew his song. He knew what he was going to say (sing) and do (play the guitar). And so, he realized he needed to trick himself into a calmer state of mind so he could deliver that song to the best of his ability.

The same goes for interviewing. No matter how long or hard you prepare, you're likely going to feel nervous and anxious. But in order to put your best foot forward, you need to be calm, not a nervous wreck. So take a page from the Boss's audition playbook and try to remember that you don't have the job when you walk into that interview. And so, you have nothing to lose. If things don't go well for whatever reason (if you're given questions you can't answer, you stumble through an answer or two, or you just don't click with your interviewer), then you'll walk out of the interview the same way you entered: without that particular job. No loss. No harm done. No big deal.

And eventually, when you're able to fully trick yourself and stay calm throughout interview after interview, you'll do as well as Springsteen did when he nailed this song in front of Hammond all those years ago:



Cranston's "epiphany"

The acclaimed actor Bryan Cranston, whose character Walter White on Breaking Bad is widely considered to be one of the greatest in television history, has a similar story about auditioning. And it's just as inspiring as Springsteen's.

Here's Cranston speaking on the Canadian podcast q about the "epiphany" he had 25 years ago that was born out of "frustration of lack of opportunity."

I mistakenly thought when I was going on an audition that I was trying to get a job, that I was there for a job interview. And it made sense because they're casting a movie, they're hiring actors, I'm an actor. But for the actor, you can't think that. And the reason you can't think that is because there are far too many actors for far too few roles. And so, everything turned in my head. I realized, 'Oh, what I need to do is not focus on trying to get a job but try to do a job.' My job is to read the script and create a compelling character and deliver that, in that room, at that time. And if I just focus on doing my job, then I have faith that it will get attention. Once I made that switch and truly owned that difference in my approach is when I started to really work. A lot.

Like Springsteen, Cranston changed his attitude, his mindset, to auditioning. There was nothing in his preparation that he changed; it was all in his approach. And what he did is similar to Springsteen. He tricked himself, in a way, so he could focus more on his audition, not on getting the part. So he was more in the moment, more in character.

Interviewing and auditioning are very similar. In an interview, just like in an audition, you can lose sight of what you're there to do and fall out of the moment, letting your anxiety (about whether you're going to get the job or not) get the best of you. If you do that, you'll have a hard time answering questions thoughtfully and truthfully, not to mention remembering to advocate for yourself. However, if you focus on the doing, and not on the getting-the-job part, chances are you'll be more relaxed, will perform better, and the getting-the-job part will come, without you having to worry about it.

As for Cranston, today he's 61 years old, meaning he didn't start this new approach of his until he was about 36. Soon after, in his early 40s, he landed his first big role: playing Hal Wilkersonin the TV show Malcolm in the Middle. Thanks to his work on Malcolm, Cranston landed the lead on Breaking Bad. He was then in his 50s. Which is another part of Cranston's story that's inspiring. Cranston has been a working actor since his mid-20s (he did commercials for Preparation H and Coffee-mate) but didn't earn wide acclaim until his late-40s.

For an early, memorable Cranston role (that could be said to contain more than a little Walter White), check out his work here, as Jerry's dentist on Seinfeld.



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Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search

Tags: acting | interview advice | interview tips | music | video

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