You know that feeling you get when you’re in a waiting room and someone is about to call you in? Or you’re the first one in a Zoom chat, anxiously waiting for a stranger to pop on screen and start asking you tough questions about your job history?
These moments are tense for everyone. But, if you struggle with social anxiety, job interviews can be the most difficult part of the job-hunting process.
The key to mastering interviews is not just being the best candidate for the job, but to reframe the interview process so that it works in your favor.
Here’s how you do that:
Basic Job Interview Tips (For the Socially Anxious)
Before we get into the deep mindset shifts, we need to start with a foundation.
Here are some basic ways to work with your social anxiety before and during a job interview:
1. EYE CONTACT
Eye contact is a powerful way to convey confidence to another person and connect with them.
**TIP: Practice making eye contact in your daily life (even if it’s just with a mirror). Also, you can practice looking at the bridge of a person’s nose instead of in their eyes. The person looking at you will not see a difference.
Practicing good posture in an interview will help you feel more present and centered, and it will help reinforce that you are a professional who’s here to take the moment seriously.
**TIP: Fixing your posture is a physical way of boosting your confidence. It’s a form of nonverbal communication that conveys self-assuredness to others and helps you believe in your own legitimacy (even when you’re feeling nervous).
Picture yourself being held up by a string that runs from the top of your head to your tailbone. Try to make that string straight, and your body will be in a healthy posture.
3. CLOTHES AND HYGIENE
If you never dress fancy, then a job interview is the perfect time to do so.
**TIP: Looking well-groomed contributes to how you feel in the moment. Simply deciding that “Today, I’m going to be a professional” will affect how you feel, and dressing nice reinforces that belief (even if you prefer to spend most of your time in sweatpants).
4. BE PREPARED FOR COMMON QUESTIONS
There are a lot of classic questions that interviewers ask. If you take the most common questions asked in a job interview and memorize how you’ll respond to them, you’ll be as prepared as can be.
**TIP: Sample Job Interview Questions to Prepare For: Where do you see yourself in five years? What’s the toughest decision you made in the last six months? What can we expect from you in the first three months?
Mindset Shifts (How to Overcome Job Interview Anxiety)
It’s true: you could have all your bases covered, know the job inside and out, and still be trembling nervous before an interview. Let’s address why that is.
Social anxiety is the fear of being judged. It’s the fear of being disapproved of. It’s a fear of being rejected and abandoned by others for not living up to their expectations.
The first mental hurdle of beating social anxiety is realizing that you don’t have to perform for anyone and that you’re the one who determines your self-worth.
But how can that apply to job interviews? Aren’t they about “impressing”other people? Well, yes and no. Let’s look at some mindset shifts:
1. ALLOW YOURSELF TO FAIL
This is a principle invented by improv actors.
Allowing yourself to fail doesn’t mean showing up unprepared. It means that instead of obsessing over your every word, you let yourself make mistakes.
You allow yourself to pause when asked a question. You don’t try to explain things perfectly. You don’t lie. You realize that you are just talking to another human being and that you can only do the best you can.
Paradoxically, allowing yourself to fail frees you from the stranglehold of your self-consciousness, and you find that you begin to speak in a more fluid, authentic way.
The more you allow yourself to fail and discover that you don’t, the more trust you’ll build in yourself, and you’ll realize that you never needed to be perfect in the first place.
2. LET GO OF WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL
You need to understand that the only person you can control in an interview is you.
You can’t control how the interviewer is going to be feeling that day. You can’t control how long you’ll have to wait. You can’t control what questions they are going to ask. You can’t control what they’ll think of you when you show up on screen or walk in the door.
Here’s an ancient stoic saying:
“Don’t suffer imagined troubles.”
You can only prepare by being the best candidate for the position. Everything else is a mystery, and in that sense, not worth worrying about. Instead of obsessing over endless possibilities, decide that you will “cross that bridge when you come to it.”
Even if an interview is a disaster (which it probably won’t be), you’ll learn from your mistakes, and you’ll tackle the next one.
Just think: Whatever happens, happens.
3. REMEMBER: YOU’RE THE ONE BEING INTERVIEWED
The neat thing about job interviews is that you aren’t really the person leading the conversation.
So, you should reframe yourself as someone this organization might need.
When they start asking you what you can do for them, you’ll realize that explaining your best qualities is easy, and even fun.
If they ask you what you would do in a certain situation, you get to show them your intelligence, and your problem-solving ability. When you can answer their questions honestly, your value to them will shine through.
Think of it like they’re asking for your help. From that perspective, they won’t seem so intimidating.
4. JOB INTERVIEWS WILL HELP SET YOU FREE (THE ULTIMATE REFRAME)
Job interviews are a direct way of facing your social anxiety, like public speaking or introducing yourself to new people. You have to remember that every time you go to a job interview, you’re building your courage.
You’re diving headfirst into what scares you to move forward in life. And it’s essential that you acknowledge how cool that is.
You have a fear (social anxiety) and you aren’t letting it stop you. In that sense, job interviews fuel your growth.
The more interviews you do, the more used to them you’ll get. You’ll pick up on similarities and subtleties, there will be less fear of the unknown, and you’ll find yourself speaking and acting more comfortably. That type of courage carries over into other parts of life too.
Job Interviews Won’t Stop You
Social anxiety can be overcome, and job interviews are a tool for doing so.
Here’s how to nail a job interview with social anxiety:
- Try to practice and maintain strong eye contact.
- Keep a straight and dignified posture.
- Keep yourself clean and well-groomed for interview day.
- Rehearse and prepare for common interview questions.
- Allow yourself to fail and express yourself authentically.
- Let go of the things you can’t predict.
- Remember that they are looking for someone like you.
- Use job interviews to combat your social anxiety and become free.
Trust yourself. You’re going to be fine.