"Tell Me About Yourself." The Dreaded Interview Question and How Improv Can Help!

By Guest Blogger: Alyssa Davis

“So, tell me a little about yourself.” The dreaded open-ended interview question.  It’s inevitable.  I shift in my seat, cough, and then drone on in a prepared statement about my qualifications, effectively reciting my cover letter by memory.  “I AM A HUMAN FEMALE WHO ATTENDED THE UNIVERSITY OF RICHMOND FROM TWO THOUSAND AND EIGHT TO TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVE…”  Everything I’m saying is true, but I watch in horror as the interviewer’s eyes glaze over, the corners of their mouth twist into a forced smile, and they sigh, preparing to power through the rest of the interview.

I consider myself to be a somewhat interesting human being, so why do I lose all personality and sense of self when answering this question?  I truly struggled with this before I started improvising, but I no longer fear it after applying these three simple improv rules. 

 1. Speak about what you know!

In scenes, we are taught to speak about what we know.  What are you passionate about?  What do you research in your free time? Whether its personal interests, intellectual pursuits, or just something lodged deep in the catacombs of your brain, it’s something we as an audience want to hear about.  It gives you a reference point and allows you to show off.

The same is true in an interview.  If you are in a comfortable place, you will sound more confident, be able to speak intelligently and come at the topic from multiple angles.  Your love of the topic will be clear in your tone of voice and passion.  If that matches with the interviewer’s interests, the conversation just got 100 times easier. 

2. Tell a story, don’t list facts.  They have your resume for that. 

In improv we are pressed to do something rather than talking about doing it.  There is a huge difference between a scene with two lumberjacks cutting down a giant sequoia tree and a scene with two lumberjacks talking about that one time they cut down a sequoia tree.  Onstage, the audience wants to be whisked away to a new place and get lost in the fantasy. 

While I don’t expect you to take your interviewer on a magical journey, I do want you to take them to a different place. Paint the picture of your previous occupation and tell a quick story or two.  These will show why you are qualified for the position, allow the interviewer to possibly imagine you a part of their company, and, most importantly, will stick with them after the interview.

3. Find something unique about you.

Seems like a no-brainer, but I watch certain improvisers because I find them interesting as human beings.  They are confident and strong when they speak. 

The same should be true in an interview.  Find some way to connect with the company in a unique way.  What can you and you only bring to the table? 

Best of luck!  I’m rooting for you. 

Alyssa Davis  is a sweet Southern girl and an improviser on improve it!'s team The Spotty Truth. Some favorite former roles include Helen of Troy in 'Trojan Women', The Madwoman Josephine in 'The Madwoman of Chaillot,' and every character in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream'. She majored in Theatre at University of Richmond, was a member of the improv team 'Subject to Change' and started UR’s first sketch video group, Sub Par Productions. She worked with an Emmy-Award Winning Filmmaker in a Documentary about the Dah Theatar in Serbia.   She has studied at iO Theater, The Second City, and The Annoyance Theatre and is currently performing in Improvised Mythology and Will You Accept this Rose? at Under the Gun and Emergency Sleepover, a Harold Team at iO.