Social anxiety and job interviews

If you experience social anxiety, attending a formal job interview with strangers may be something you really don’t look forward to. Beyond the essential steps of researching the employer, thinking about questions you might get asked, working with your careers service and so on, below are some excerpts of advice to help with this.

Claire Eastham, award-winning blogger

“Accept your condition. Don’t try & ignore it, or hope that it won’t flare up. Instead take ownership of the situation. Do a practice interview in advance, also plan how you’re going to get to the venue in advance. Preparation is key. For more tips on social anxiety, check out my award winning blog; We’re All Mad Here.

Anxious Minds

“Cognitive distortions are essentially a negative thinking bias. Particularly relevant to the SAD suffer is a way of thinking that is excessively self-focused. Rather than focus on how other people look in the room, you are focused on how they look at you, essentially exaggerating the attention paid to you.

Why are you so worried how other people will see you? Why would you have to be the one worried about being judged? What gives them the right to feel superior? Another issue at the heart of SAD, among other anxiety disorders, is that of feeling inferior to other people you run into. Think about that for a second; it’s quite likely the other people are worried about the same thing, and are too busy being self-conscious themselves to even notice what you are concerned about.”

Very Well Mind

“Reduce stressors unrelated to your actual performance in the interview, such as:

uncomfortable clothing

getting lost

showing up late

Well in advance, choose an outfit that is comfortable and that looks good on you. If you aren’t familiar with the location of the interview, give yourself plenty of time to find it or do a trial run a day or two before…

Anxiety has a way of leaking out even when you think that you have it well-hidden. If you find yourself fidgeting, do something to release anxious energy that will be less noticeable, such as wiggling your toes.”

Steve Sheward, Prospects

“As a starting point, it’s useful to identify common unhelpful thinking styles….Consider whether you are engaging in any of the following:

All or nothing thinking: Of course you want the job very much. But if you tell yourself that you absolutely must get it, chances are you’ll increase the pressure and cause your anxiety level to rise even higher. Try to think flexibly and tell yourself that it’s not a life or death situation. Even if you don’t get this job the experience will help you to refine your interview technique and place you in a better position for future opportunities.

Emotional reasoning: Although CBT posits that the way we think affects how we feel, it’s often a two-way process and our mood can influence our perception of the situation and our resulting behaviour. It’s natural to feel nervous on the day of the interview because the outcome is very important. So it’s helpful to acknowledge ‘butterflies’ as normal and then focus on the task in hand. Don’t take this feeling of nervousness as a ‘danger signal’ that the interview will go badly. Consider instead the benefits of a little adrenaline to sharpen your performance.

Mind reading/unhelpful interpretations: Interview panels are daunting at the best of times and the individuals involved can be inscrutable or, at worst, slightly aggressive. Try not to take this personally. If you fixate on the interviewer’s facial expressions and body language, you may imagine that they are forming a negative opinion of you and allow this thought to undermine your confidence. If they look a bit grim, tell yourself that it’s due to their formal interview style and carry on regardless.”

Katherine Brooks, Psychology Today

“Don’t “force” yourself to calm down.  Forcing yourself to calm down will just increase your stress…

Get outside of yourself.  Anxiety causes us to become very self-centred and self-focused.  Make a point of focusing on others and being empathetic.  Greet the receptionist at the interview site.  Ask your interviewer how their day is going.  Pay attention when someone tells you their name, and make an effort to remember it. Smile. Engage with others. ”

Ashley Miller, Houston Chronicle

“In an interview with CNN Living, psychologist David Barlow provides two helpful suggestions: focusing on what the interviewer is saying and reducing your need to be perfect. Concentrate on the questions your interviewer is asking but don’t feel like you need to provide a flawless response. Anxiety is often increased by perfectionist tendencies, because you feel like there’s no room for error. Everyone makes mistakes or acts nervous during job interviews, and other candidates are probably dealing with the same feelings you are. Try to relax and just be yourself. This way, your natural strengths will shine through. “

Joy D’Souza, Huffington Post Canada

“If you start experiencing anxiety during your interview… it’s OK to slow down and even ask for some water.

Aside from giving you an opportunity for a break during the interview… extra hydration can help lower stress.

“Don’t feel that you have to have the perfect answer to all the interview questions immediately…Some hesitation is positive and indicates that you are thinking before speaking.”

Joanne Sarginson, Student Minds

“Whilst getting rejected at the interview stage might initially seem like a failure, it’s not. If this was one of your first interviews on your job hunt, remember that walking into an unfamiliar and intimidating situation takes bravery and doing so is a personal success in itself. If this is the next in a long line of rejections, consider how resilient you’ve been to continue applying. Rework your thought processes so that you don’t see rejection as a result of things that went wrong – think instead about things that went well. Consider where you could have improved; even email your interviewer to ask for feedback. “

Rahere, blogger

“The interviewer may be as petrified as you are. They also have a need, to fill the job as well as they can. It would be unusual to find the perfect candidate.”


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