Discussing Anxiety in Interview

  • #1
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Hello everyone.

So I'm going through a lot of interviews right now.

For a long time I've been painfully awkward and shy, and now, at the ripe old age of 28, I'm trying to get over it.

Of course, as far as the interviewer is concerned, they have no way of verifying that, so you're just hoping they believe you.

So basically if I tell the interviewer "I've have social anxiety / am a social idiot / whatever, but now I'm trying to get over it, cos I'm just too old right now", they'll probably think I making excuses or just making stuff up.

Know what I mean? Or not? Any thoughts? What can I do in an interview?

And yes, genuinely, I have been really awful in social situations, and I am trying to get over it cos it's ruining my life.
 

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  • #2
berkeman
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One thing that helped me a lot early on was joining our high school speech club, and learning to give good speeches and presentations. It helps you to get comfortable talking with others (including strangers), and gives you good tools that carry over to your social interactions.

Does your school have anything like a speech club or debating club? Have you looked into Toastmasters? I think you would get a lot out of joining your local Toastmasters group. :smile:

https://www.toastmasters.org/
 
  • #3
Choppy
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It's perfectly natural to be nervous in an interview situation.

Seeming at least a little nervous can be a good thing. It means that the interview is important to you. Ideally though, you want to control your anxiety.

My first question in reading this is: why would you tell an interviewer that you're a "social idiot" in the first place? I'm assuming this is for a job interview. The point in such interviews is to present the best version of yourself that you can. Often I think when people have an issue like this, their first instinct is to blurt it out. That's a social defence mechanism. It's harder for people to "attack" you for being nervous if the first thing you say is "I'm really nervous." But in reality, the interviewers may not even notice this. And even if they do, they're unlikely to jump all over you about it. Most interviewers want to see you do well.

So one tip is to think about your language ahead of time. What is it specifically that gives you anxiety? Speaking in large groups of people? One on one interactions? Encountering new situations with unspoken etiquette?

If an interviewer brings up your "weaknesses" and you feel that you have to bring this up, you can do it in a positive way. "Growing up I always had a hard time dealing with people who would question me aggressively... teachers who gave oral exams and didn't take the time to let me work out my answers. Over the years I've learned that the best way to deal with these kinds of situations is to prepare in advance as much as possible so that I can walk in ready with the most important information at my fingertips. Teamwork is also a big factor. In most real life situations, if I don't know the answer, someone on my team does and I like supporting other people on my team in the same way. I still get nervous when I'm on the spot, but that's because doing a good job is very important to me."
 
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  • #4
russ_watters
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So basically if I tell the interviewer "I've have social anxiety / am a social idiot / whatever, but now I'm trying to get over it, cos I'm just too old right now", they'll probably think I making excuses or just making stuff up.

Know what I mean? Or not? Any thoughts? What can I do in an interview?
I can't imagine why you would want to bring this up to an interviewer at all.
 
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  • #5
Tom.G
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I can't imagine why you would want to bring this up to an interviewer at all.
Agreed!

If asked about social skills (mostly doesn't happen), my response would tend to "I'm more technically oriented rather than a salesman." In other words, state the positive.

(And hope they don't see your profile page here showing your Occupation.) :wink:
 
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  • #6
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I don't know if you guys actually go to interviews:wideeyed:

Your technical competence they can judge from your qualifications and references. Most of the interview process is actually psychometric analysis, personality tests to see if you fit into their 'culture', and with someone from HR to chat about yourself. Technical testing is actually like a third or a quarter (my guesstimate) of the interview process.
 
  • #7
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Just to clarify, unless you're some hot-shot, you'll probably be competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of people with a similar or better background than you.

It seems to me you guys aren't aware, employers are looking for people that fit their 'corporate culture' and all that jazz. So yeah, actually they do dig into these kinds of things. I'm saying it is actually a disadvantage for me in an interview process. And you can never put it in such a way to make it sound genuine, I suspect they generally think you're just making up stuff to excuse your short-comings.
 
  • #8
Choppy
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It seems to me you guys aren't aware, employers are looking for people that fit their 'corporate culture' and all that jazz. So yeah, actually they do dig into these kinds of things. I'm saying it is actually a disadvantage for me in an interview process. And you can never put it in such a way to make it sound genuine, I suspect they generally think you're just making up stuff to excuse your short-comings.

I don't think anyone is implying that these kinds of things don't come up. Of course employers are interested in your soft skills.
But interviews potential employers are going to confront you with questions or problems like:
  • Describe a situation in which you had to deal with a major conflict in a working environment.
  • What do you consider a high pressure situation? How do you deal with it?
  • Give us an example of how you have dealt with a "difficult" customer in the past. Would you do anything differently in hindsight?
  • You're representing our company at a major conference. Describe how you would approach potential clients.
  • Describe three personal weaknesses.
  • [Firing a set of technical questions at you that most people wouldn't be able to solve on the spot, to see how you deal with that kind of situation]
All of these examples are situations where you have control over how you respond, the language you use, and the specific experiences you choose to draw on.

At no point is it necessary to come out and say "I am a social idiot."

If you have to talk about social anxiety, focus on HOW you deal with it, rather than just stating that you suffer from it.
 
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  • #9
russ_watters
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I don't know if you guys actually go to interviews:wideeyed:

Your technical competence they can judge from your qualifications and references. Most of the interview process is actually psychometric analysis, personality tests to see if you fit into their 'culture', and with someone from HR to chat about yourself. Technical testing is actually like a third or a quarter (my guesstimate) of the interview process.
Most of us are adults with jobs, so, yeah...

I'm not even sure there are any questions an interviewer is legally allowed to ask that would require you to answer "I've had social anxiety". Perhaps you can tell us, specifically, what questions you are concerned about.

An example where you could volunteer it but shouldn't;
"Our culture is __________. How do you think you would fit in here?"

Edit: btw, this issue is very googlable. Try "interview tips social anxiety".
 
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  • #10
Vanadium 50
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Just to clarify, unless you're some hot-shot, you'll probably be competing against hundreds, if not thousands, of people with a similar or better background than you.

But they aren't all being interviewed for a given position.
 
  • #11
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I'm not even sure there are any questions an interviewer is legally allowed to ask that would require you to answer "I've had social anxiety".

Can you expand on this? I'm not from the US, btw.

If you have to talk about social anxiety, focus on HOW you deal with it, rather than just stating that you suffer from it.

Yeah, but how much more can you do than "I'm trying to get over it, I care less about those things now" or something vague like that?
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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Can you expand on this? I'm not from the US, btw.
It would vary by country, so you should look up the laws in yours. In the US, we have strict anti-discrimination laws. In particular, the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to discriminate in hiring on the basis of, among other things, disability. As a result, the interviewer cannot ask if you have a mental or physical disability:
6. Do not ask questions if you reasonably expect the answers to relate to disabilities. You may ask, "How well do you handle stress on the job?" That's acceptable because people without disabilities may not handle stress well. But you cannot ask, "Have you ever been treated for your inability to handle stress?" Similarly, because many people without disabilities do not have perfect eyesight, you may ask, "Do you have 20/20 corrected vision?" But you cannot follow up that question to find out the applicant's corrected vision.
And even when volunteered:
7. If an applicant volunteers information about a disability, don't follow up with a disability-related question. Sometimes applicants volunteer information about disabilities, even when interviewers haven’t asked about them. An applicant may volunteer that she has multiple sclerosis. Do not ask questions like, "How does that affect your work?" or "What's your prognosis?"
http://practice.findlaw.com/human-resources/how-to-interview-without-violating-the-ada.html

Another link:
http://www.comparebusinessproducts....uestions-you-cant-ask-and-30-sneaky-legal-get
 
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  • #14
Apple_Mango
I can relate to you OP. I generally have anxiety and socialize makes it hard for me. I can appear normal like everyone else but I feel like I have to put in a ton of mental effort to appear to be normal.
 
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  • #15
symbolipoint
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I don't think anyone is implying that these kinds of things don't come up. Of course employers are interested in your soft skills.
But interviews potential employers are going to confront you with questions or problems like:
  • Describe a situation in which you had to deal with a major conflict in a working environment.
  • What do you consider a high pressure situation? How do you deal with it?
  • Give us an example of how you have dealt with a "difficult" customer in the past. Would you do anything differently in hindsight?
  • You're representing our company at a major conference. Describe how you would approach potential clients.
  • Describe three personal weaknesses.
  • [Firing a set of technical questions at you that most people wouldn't be able to solve on the spot, to see how you deal with that kind of situation]
All of these examples are situations where you have control over how you respond, the language you use, and the specific experiences you choose to draw on.

At no point is it necessary to come out and say "I am a social idiot."

If you have to talk about social anxiety, focus on HOW you deal with it, rather than just stating that you suffer from it.
Most of those kinds of questions, people do not have a book-like and organized set of data or answers to report. Those would be like researching oneself and writing a book about it, and then reading and studying it. Such questions have come up in my interviews only during the last six or seven years or abouts. Before that, almost nobody seemed to ask those kinds; on the other hand, an ocassional slightly more specific interview question like those did come up.
 
  • #16
Choppy
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Yeah, but how much more can you do than "I'm trying to get over it, I care less about those things now" or something vague like that?

You can do more than that. Just like any other problem, you break it down, come up with a plan, execute and revise as necessary.

You start by identifying specifics. Something broad like "social anxiety" can be broken into more specific problems such as: difficulty initiating conversations, difficulty speaking in public, etc. Then for each specific area of weakness, you develop a plan for improving it. Examples:
  • Difficulty initiating conversations: I began volunteering with English (or insert language of choice) as a second language students. My goal is to put in a minimum of eight hours per month of direct conversations.
  • Difficulty public speaking: I joined a Toastmasters chapter and my first major goal is to be able to give an engaging fifteen minute speech.
I have a fair amount of experience interviewing job applicants. Every applicant is going to have strengths and weaknesses and in my experience hiring committees are not looking for someone who is "weakness free." Someone who is aware of his or her own personal challenges and can articulate strategies for self-improvement, or effective mitigation techniques will certainly come across much better that someone who can only provide vague answers.
 
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  • #17
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you could tell him about what you're currently doing to get over your social anxiety. example making an effort to meet people and chat in public.
 
  • #18
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Lots of good answers, but basically what I'm doing to get over it is not the kind of thing you can put on your CV with a bullet point, like joining Toastmasters, it's literally as boring as "I'm less nervous talking to people", "I'm not as quiet as I used to be" etc. Since that's not verifiable for the interviewer, they're likely to dismiss it.

So then it is worthwhile to do stuff you can put on your CV like volunteer or joinging Toastmasters just so you have something tangible like that?
 
  • #19
GergiaSam
It's quite a normal situation where most of the people go through the anxiety called as interview anxiety.Actually, at that time our mind starts overthinking.The best thing to keep yourself calm is to divert the attention of your thinking.You should be confident in your communication.Sometime it may have happened that your confidence will hide your weakness and boost up yourself.Social anxiety can be minimized by meeting up with the people, sharing your ideas and some relaxing tip such as adopting the yoga routine in your life.This will help you to remain focus and fresh.More and more communication with the people will make you feel good among the public.
 
  • #20
Choppy
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Lots of good answers, but basically what I'm doing to get over it is not the kind of thing you can put on your CV with a bullet point, like joining Toastmasters, it's literally as boring as "I'm less nervous talking to people", "I'm not as quiet as I used to be" etc. Since that's not verifiable for the interviewer, they're likely to dismiss it.

So then it is worthwhile to do stuff you can put on your CV like volunteer or joinging Toastmasters just so you have something tangible like that?

It's not so much that your current answer is "boring." You're describing a result and not a specific action taken to address a problem. But you're right. Those kinds of responses are likely to be dismissed and you're left coming across as a candidate with a problem.

If you feel that this social anxiety is a strong enough point of weakness for you that it's preventing you from getting jobs that you want, it's worth addressing in a tangible manner that you can articulate well in an interview setting. That's not doing something "just to put on your CV." If it gets you the job that you want, then it's probably worth doing.
 
  • #21
Nidum
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What jobs are you applying for ?
 
  • #22
symbolipoint
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Lots of good answers, but basically what I'm doing to get over it is not the kind of thing you can put on your CV with a bullet point, like joining Toastmasters, it's literally as boring as "I'm less nervous talking to people", "I'm not as quiet as I used to be" etc. Since that's not verifiable for the interviewer, they're likely to dismiss it.

So then it is worthwhile to do stuff you can put on your CV like volunteer or joinging Toastmasters just so you have something tangible like that?
The idea is self-development and self-improvement. Maybe you might not put this on resume or Curric Vitae, but some of these activities may still help you.
 
  • #23
symbolipoint
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Try this: READ some job advertisements. Do you have some skills and understanding which you KNOW you can use on that job? How will be your social anxiety now?
 
  • #24
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Most interviewers will pick up on if you are socially awkward within the first 10 minutes. I agree with the recommendation to join Toastmasters or some other small group where you interact with multiple people. Good luck.
 
  • #25
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It doesn't matter what the job is, as far as I can see, everything has the same interview process, like I said. Maybe only 1/3 is checking your technical competence, the rest is HR, psychometric tests, personality tests.

It's not so much that your current answer is "boring." You're describing a result and not a specific action taken to address a problem. But you're right. Those kinds of responses are likely to be dismissed and you're left coming across as a candidate with a problem.

Yeah, but it's literally just a consequence of me getting older, there isn't anything specific I did about it.

I'm just so stressed right now, I've got a lot I need to do (don't want to bore you with details of my personal life). Anyway, I'll see what I can do. Thanks for the answers everyone.
 

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