5 Tips to Pass an Interview when you have Social Anxiety

Sad woman crying during psychotherapy at professional clinic

Something to do with your personality, you say. Or is it your social skills? Or your internal self. Or simply, who you perceive yourself to be as a person. 

This is social anxiety disorder (SAD) and as you know, anyone suffering from it, is probably always anxious about making small talk, using public restrooms, and/ or eating in front of people. 

So when it comes to interviews, even the mere thought can trigger unease and worry. Luckily, there are ways to ace interviews even with the most severe case of social anxiety disorder. Ready to get started?  

The Bright Side for Social Anxious People

Just so you know, some of the most prosperous businessmen, some of the best minds, as well as some of the most influential leaders have all worked and lived through anxiety. 

So whether you’ve applied to become a writer, a computer programmer, a lawyer, a teacher, or whatever it is, there are plenty of methods to manage your social anxiety during an interview and while you work. 

Here are 5 crucial pointers on how you’ll cope with your SAD before and during a job interview: 

  1. Accept your Situation and Treat yourself Accordingly

Keeping yourself in good mental and physical health is crucial when dealing with potentially stressful situations. With that said, the first step of good mental health when suffering from a condition like SAD is accepting your situation. 

According to a 2015 study, strategies involving acceptance and reappraisal were much more effective than suppression when it came to regulating anxiety in a simulated interview. In other words, learning to accept you’ll feel anxious helps to reframe how you view your anxiety in your mind. 

Remember, your potential boss only cares about the things that will add value to his/ her company. So cultivate the right mindset by accepting your flaws and focusing on the positive attributes. In an interview, focus on communicating, for instance, how productive and how useful you are. 

If they ask whether you have any weaknesses, don’t mention your social anxiety, but instead talk about work-related weaknesses. For example issues with timekeeping or being too self-critical. 

Other than a proper mindset, you can also keep yourself in check leading up to a potentially stressful situation by: 

  • Exercising- Research shows that regular physical activity results in fewer anxiety and depressive symptoms. What’s more, physical exercise will improve your sense of well-being as well as your self-esteem. 
  • Getting Enough Sleep- Researchers from the University of California, Berkely, realized that sleep-deprived people feel less inclined to interact with others as well as lonelier. Indeed, getting enough sleep every day is a fundamental treatment for any type of anxiety. 
  • Practising Mindfulness Meditation- Based on Buddhist psychology, mindfulness meditation is a holistic mind-body treatment clinically proven to treat social anxiety. The process of mindfulness meditation involves stopping yourself from obsessive thinking, using an anchor to still your mind, focusing on body sensation, etc. 
  • Practising Deep Breathing Daily- According to Justin Weeks, Ph.D., a director at Ohio University’s Center for Evaluation and Treatment for Anxiety, making deep-breathing a habit can help in dealing with anxiety-provoking situations. 
  • Eating Healthy and Well- Without a doubt, healthy eating habits make all the difference between days of peace and calm and days filled with jitters. To eat better to suppress anxiety, eat small, regular meals, good carbohydrates/ whole grains, and limit refined sugars, caffeine, alcohol, as well as, cigarettes. 
  • Research and Prepare Extensively

It goes without saying that the more you prepare, the better positioned you’ll be in your interview. There’s a high chance you’ll compete with others for the same position. So it’s best to go the extra mile with the preparations, considering you might be the only one with social anxiety. 

You may want to: 

  • Research about the place where you’ll attend the interview. This includes directions on how to get there as well as how long it will take. This way, you can plan to settle in early before your interview, which will go a long way to reduce stress and worry. 
  • Make a checklist of all items you’ll need for the interview so you forget nothing. This may include things like your resume letter, cover letter, business cards, licenses, references, pet and notepads, as well as certification. 
  • Research the company as well as the role you’ve applied for. This includes figuring out the company culture as well as seeking to understand all the responsibilities and requirements that go along with your job description. 
  • Practice body language and voice speaking. Pay special attention to how you walk, smile, and shake hands. A strong, confident, and friendly body language is sure to leave a positive, lasting impression with the interviewers. 
  • Reduce Stressors

Do you have clothes that no longer fit? Imagine wearing those to your interview. How stressful would that be? 

Take note that how you’ll fare throughout your interview depends largely on your internal and external environment. So the idea is to cultivate a mood that keeps you relaxed and calm. 

With that said, avoid potential stressors like tight-fitting clothes, a hectic schedule, and even relationship conflicts leading up to your interview. Keep in mind that everyone has unique stressors depending on how they perceive things, availability of resources, as well as their understanding of the world. 

Look inward to figure out what is likely to stress you before and during your interview and try to avert these scenarios. 

  • Visualize Success

You’ve probably heard about guided imagery visualizations before. Social anxiety patients use visualization techniques under guided imagery to enter a relaxed state. 

Now, you can use the same techniques to pass an interview, but instead of imagining a tropical beach or the soothing ocean sound, you visualize yourself passing the actual interview. 

From how you’ll walk into the venue to how the interviewing panel will treat you, how you’ll correctly answer all the questions, how you’ll remain relaxed and calm, try to create the clearest picture of a successful interview session in your mind. 

When done correctly, visualization prepares your brain to react in a given way. Note- elite athletes have successfully used this technique improve performance during competitions. Not only that. 

There’s even talk of virtual reality (VR) helping SAD patients to pass interviews. A recent study on the effectiveness of VR in reducing fears, improving job interview skills, and increasing confidence showed that this technology can suppress anxiety. Participants cited features like being able to review interview transcripts and ongoing feedback as quite helpful. 

  • Take Your Time with the Interview

Don’t rush to answer questions from the interviewers. Instead listen well, pause, and collect your thoughts before answering. If you feel worried you’ll draw a blank, take notes as the interviewers talk. This will allow you a reference point for the questions asked and also takes off the focus of you. So don’t be shy to mention that you are first collecting your thoughts before answering the questions. 

It’s important to note that you may at times meet interviewers who are hell-bent on testing how you handle stress. And with SAD, you may feel the need to spiral into automatic negative thinking with thoughts such as,” he doesn’t like me,” or “I should have never applied,” going through your head. 

Don’t succumb to such pressure. Just acknowledge (in your mind) what the interviewer is trying to achieve and react accordingly by staying calm. In any case, all other candidates will get treated the same way. 

Another thing you can do in terms of taking time with the interview is interviewing the interviewer. Yes, go into the interview with the mindset to evaluate your potential employer. 

Remember, as much as you are there for the interviewers to decide whether you’ll work for them, it’s also for you to figure out whether you want to work with them. So find out whether the opportunity fits your career’s goals and ambitions by asking your own questions.

Mind you, asking relevant questions will also go a long way to show your interest in the industry and organization. 


Bonus Point- Congratulate Yourself

Thoughtful psychotherapist during session with sad patient with anxiety problem

Now, regardless of how the interview will pan out, give yourself a pat on the back for merely taking the chance. Don’t ruminate about what you would have done better or how the interview went. Not unless you’re taking notes on what to improve on. 

Dwelling on too much negativity will sap your confidence so much that you can’t attend another interview. Bottom line? Whether you do well or not, reward yourself with something you enjoy and live to fight another day. 

Last Word from the Experts

Passing an interview can be tough even for some the toughest, bravest, and most confident people. Certainly, you’ll face specific challenges when it comes to your social anxiety but just like with all other successful SAD patients, confronting your anxiety will help you overcome these challenges. 

Remember, most cases of social anxiety are anticipatory. In that, once you’re in a potentially threatening situation, you’ll feel anxious at first, but it can naturally plateau and later decline if you resist the urge to pull the plug. Take note that this doesn’t mean trying to avoid anxiety. No. 

It’s, instead, committing yourself to ‘be brave for a mere a minute,’ which is, in essence, dropping safety behaviours. You see, safety behaviours like trying to avoid getting noticed by people take up lots of your bandwidth, leaving you with little room to be your friendly, authentic self. So drop any safety behaviours during your interview to appear more likeable. 

Author Bio:

Sara Anderson is the head of content for the EzCare clinic, a medical clinic that provides world-class health care services. She has been associated with the health care industry for 10+ years and specializes in health care and medical content