'American Idol' can teach you about job interviews and networking

By Donn LeVie Jr.

Career Connection: Building your professional career

I enjoy watching "American Idol." I've seen so many parallels between how hopefuls audition for a chance to continue their quest toward fame, fortune, and a trip to Hollywood and how people approach job interviews. On "American Idol," those who are really talented rise above those less gifted. But even among the very talented, we see significant differences.

We can almost spot the "Top 10" contestants by how they handle their auditions. The ones who find the most favor understand what the judges are looking for: not only "the look" and great vocal chops but how a contestant gets lost in the moment of the audition. Or, better yet: how that contestant is on his or her game when he or she delivers what the judges want.

The beggars and pleaders rarely make it through to the Hollywood round. If they do, they're usually gone by the end of that week. They just don't understand the nature of the auditions. They're controlled by the emotion of the moment — perhaps overwhelmed by the celebrity status of the judges — but then they rely on the beneficence of the judges and hope they'll get to the next round.

They've allowed their immediate surroundings, the presence of the judges or other external factors to exert control of their auditions. This behavior quickly and clearly labels these pleading hopefuls as amateurs and usually disqualifies them for further consideration.

Your job interview is your audition. When your game is on, you focus on what the hiring manager wants and needs, and you own the audition — the interview — and the space in which you find yourself, rather than feel sucked into it like a semi-helpless victim.


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