Anxious people fare worse during job interviews

Last Updated 24 May 2013, 17:20 IST

Nervous about that upcoming job interview? You might want to take steps to reduce your jitters, more so if you are a man.

People who are anxious perform more poorly in job interviews, and the effect is worse for men than women, according to new research from the University of Guelph Ontario, Canada.

Anxiety often shows up as nervous tics, difficulty speaking and trouble coming up with answers, all of which are known to influence hiring outcomes, said psychology professor Deborah Powell.

While men are no more anxious than women during job interviews, they experience significantly greater impairments from anxiety, researchers said.

The study involved 125 undergraduate students who participated in a mock interview: 43 men and 82 women. Participants rated their own anxiety levels and had their anxiety and interview performance evaluated by an interviewer.

Overall, anxious men and women were rated lower on interview performance than their less-nervous counterparts. But nervous men were penalised the most, ranking far below equally nervous women in post-interview measures.

"It could simply be that people have stereotypes about anxiety and that it's more socially acceptable for a woman to be anxious," Powell said.

"While for men, it may look out of character. They may be expected to be less emotional and more assertive," she said.

Researcher Amanda Feiler said women and men might deal differently with anxiety, with women more likely to use effective coping strategies.

"They may practise being interviewed with a friend or seek emotional support by talking about their fears. On average, men tend to engage more in avoidance. As a result men do less to prepare for the interview and perform worse," she said.

But what is clear, the researchers said, is that anxiety impairs candidates' ability to perform in the job interview.

"It would be advantageous for both men and women to learn to effectively deal with their interview anxiety," said Feiler.

"Employers need to remember that interviews are anxiety-provoking. If people are feeling anxious, they might do more poorly in an interview than they would otherwise, and employers may be missing out on good candidates," Feiler said.

Telling job candidates what to expect during the interview, including the types of questions to be asked, may reduce anxiety, Powell said.

Research also suggests that when people are anxious, they appear as less warm and enthusiastic, which are the two key determinants of interview performance, Powell said.

The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.

(Published 24 May 2013, 17:20 IST)

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