Itzhak Perlman was interviewed by Charlie Rose, who asked Perlman what he looks for when selecting those few special Juilliard School students he wishes to work with. Years before, he himself was a student at Juilliard. “Is it skills or talent?” Rose asked. Perlman’s answer was that talent is not easily defined and that certainly most of Juilliard’s students are very talented to begin with. But Perlman is looking for that spark in their eyes and a special facial expression. So it seems that the differentiator when it comes to selecting students is something beyond skills and talent.
That point is also evident and relevant in terms of a job interview. Of course interviewers’ questions can be technical ones requiring skill-based answers or they may be behavioral based and looking for attitude, demeanor, and the like. But interpretation of answers is also heavily psychologically based—meaning, based on what the interviewer sees: Does the candidate have that spark in the eyes when talking about great professional accomplishments? Is there congruity between the spoken words and the body language?
A job interview is a stressful test. I don’t think anyone would deny that. The candidate going through this stressful event has to not only focus on the spoken words but also make sure to literally act out the role as interviewee. And there’s more to being an actor than just having acting skills. One has to have the talent and the ability to control and demonstrate genuine enthusiasm. Like an actor’s role, the interviewee’s role can be learned too with the proper guidance. I practice this every day.