Job Interview

A colleague taught me this game. I don't know where he learned it. It's a lot of wacky fun for older (middle school and up) actors, and requires them to be both focused—so they don't break character—and creative—so they can think on their feet.


How to Play

Three chairs are placed in the performance space. Three players sit in them. The one in the middle is the "boss," who turns and begins to "interview" one of the others for a job. The idea is that the two on the outside are rivals for one opening. The boss makes up the job, and the qualifications, and the "interviewee" improvises answers to the questions.


Meanwhile, the remaining candidate (who is now essentially behind the boss, who can't see him) tries to distract his rival (who can see him) any way possible. This can involve making faces, climbing on the chair, doing a little dance—anything that does not make a noise or otherwise attract the attention of the "boss." (This is a little like the "staring contests" Conan O'Brien used to have with his sidekick, in which, behind Conan's head where only Andy could see them, all sorts of surprising or disgusting things would happen to throw Andy off.)


The candidate being interviewed must try to keep a straight face. If she breaks, the boss can demand to know what's so funny. If the interviewee cannot answer convincingly (without ratting out her competitor) then the interview is over and that candidate is "fired"—she is "out." The remaining people move over one seat (so that the other "candidate" is now the "boss"), a new person takes the newly vacant seat, and the game continues with a new job and qualifications. However, if the interviewee can give a convincing answer on the spur of the moment when challenged, then the interview can continue, perhaps with the admonition, "well, try to stay focused." (For instance, someone being interviewed for a job in a medical office might say when asked to explain why she is laughing, "I'm sorry, but you mentioned that the job would require patience, and I thought you meant it as a pun for "patients"),


Another (and more frequent) way for someone to be "fired" is as follows. If in the course of the "interview the "distractor" makes a noise, or the boss catches a glimpse of him—or indeed every so often for no particular reason at all—the "boss" may suddenly turn and demand, "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" The person is generally caught in an incriminating position, such as standing on one foot on the chair, or writhing on the floor. (I once saw a player caught in the act of pretending to "groom" the boss, and popping little bugs in his mouth as he extracted them.) As above, if the guilty candidate cannot give a convincing explanation for the position in which he is caught, or for a noise he made, he is "fired," and "out." But if he can explain himself ("I thought the light bulb was about to burn out, so I was going to change it for you." "Sorry—I sometimes have seizures.") then the play continues, with the "boss" now interviewing that person and the other one trying to distract him. It is up to the boss to decide whether an explanation passes muster.



There should be some kind of challenge at least every minute or two, so even if the "boss" does not actually detect any movement behind him, he should arrange to catch the "distractor" out every so often anyway. Similarly, no matter how noisy the "distractor" is, it is better not to challenge immediately. For the "audience"—which consists of all those not currently in play—the fun of the game is in the crazy antics of the "distractor" and the wacky job descriptions and qualifications invented by the boss and the interviewee, as much as in the creativity of the responses when someone is challenged. So it is best to let these things develop a bit before challenging. Most groups figure this out for themselves pretty quick.


With my Middle School students especially, I find it best to qualify the instructions a little. It is dangerous to say things like "Do whatever you can think of to distract the other person." I always add, "As long as it is appropriate for school (and you KNOW what I mean by that), as long as you use your common sense, and as long as you follow the general rules of the classroom."


Sometimes it is necessary for the leader to "cook" the results a little so that the same people don't end up in the game too long. (According to a strict interpretation of the rules, this can happen if the "boss" fires the person on the left, then the new "boss" fires the person on the right, so that the original "boss" is "boss" again, etc.) Usually I do this by just declaring that person a "retiring champion" and putting in someone new.