How to Cope With Social Anxiety in an Interview

Many things can trigger Social Anxiety Disorder during an interview. You have likely never met these people before, they will be judging your every word (and hot flush) as you are asked to talk about yourself, and the uncertainty of the outcome offers fertile ground for negativity and worry.

Interviews are tough for anyone, but when you suffer from social anxiety, just the thought of walking into that room can scramble your brain. Trying to suppress your fear will backfire, so how do you go about accepting and reframing your worries? The following techniques might help to side-line the impending sense of doom:

Visualise and practice success. Prepare your brain to experience an interview’s mental and physical stresses by visualising what success might look like. Close your eyes and see yourself in that interview room sitting in front of the interviewers (checking out what they look like on social media will help here). Think about the most complicated questions they could ask and run through how you want to answer them. Elite athletes do precisely this before they compete, so get those neural pathways humming. 

Manage potential stressors. The list of potential stressors can seem endless for someone with social anxiety, but many of them are predictable in a formal interview situation. Prepare your clothes in advance, give yourself plenty of time to get there, release some stress by chatting with the receptionist and ensure that you ask the interviewer questions early in the interview to give yourself a breather. Do more research than you need.

Avoid automatic negative thinking. Negative thoughts (justified or not) will act to add even more pressure to an interview process. “I shouldn’t have applied; what am I doing here?” can echo at the front of your mind after every imperfect answer. “They don’t like me, do they?” can chip away at your confidence after even a hint of a frown from an interviewer. Remember, a challenging interview is supposed to make any candidate doubt themselves a little, so choose to have confidence in your abilities when such questions appear.

Practice functional reappraisal of the situation. If the interview doesn’t go well, what is the worst that could happen? Sure, you don’t get the job, but maybe it wasn’t meant to be anyway? Better to know that now than be miserable six months along the line. Functional reappraisal looks at rationalising a stressful situation and being logical about what it means. Accept yourself as an imperfect human being and move on to the next opportunity without regret or emotional baggage. Many interview processes are not perfect, either.

If you can’t seem to get through a job interview without anxiety crippling your performance, realise that you are not alone. Countless people have felt the same way. You owe it to yourself to address the problem, so it may be worth visiting a doctor to investigate what help might be available. Mental health can be addressed (just as with physical health) in various ways, so take that first step and see what might work for you.

Social anxiety will always be there in an interview, but it doesn’t need to dominate your thoughts. Hopefully, this article has offered a few ideas about how to cope.