In Job Interview, Focus Less on Anxiety, More on Warmth, Assertiveness

When you step into your next job interview, try not to worry about whether or not the interviewer can detect your anxiety; instead, just focus on being warm, friendly and assertive.

This advice is drawn from new findings by researchers at the University of Guelph in Canada, who carefully observed how candidates project themselves during an interview, and how interviewers respond to them.

“Overall, the results indicated that interviewees should focus less on their nervous tics and more on the broader impressions that they convey,” said researcher Amanda Feiler. “Anxious interviewees may want to focus on how assertive and interpersonally warm they appear to interviewers.”

For the study, Feiler and co-researcher Deborah Powell were determined to figure out exactly why anxious job candidates tend to receive lower performance ratings during an interview.

Their work has important implications, as candidates who exhibit anxiety during an interview often do not get hired. As a result, companies might often reject potential candidates with interview jitters who are otherwise quite capable of doing the job.

The study is the first to use a validated interview anxiety measure in order to rate how interviewees behave, what signals they send out, and how they are perceived by the people looking for the right candidate.

To do this, they videotaped and transcribed the mock job interviews of 125 undergraduate students from a university in Canada. Eighteen interviewers rated the candidates based on their levels of anxiety and performance.

Trained raters also evaluated the candidates’ performances by measuring their anxiety levels through specific cues and traits, such as how the candidates adjusted their clothing, fidgeted or averted their gaze.

The researchers found that the speed at which someone talks is the only cue that both interviewers and interviewees rate as a sign of nervousness or not. The fewer words per minute people speak, the more nervous they are perceived to be.

Also, anxious candidates are often rated as being less assertive and exuding less interpersonal warmth. This tends to bring rejection from the interviewers.

“It would be valuable for researchers to build on the present study to investigate auditory and physiological cues and different methods of measuring nonverbal behavior, because organizational researchers are only beginning to understand the effects and implications of interview anxiety,” said Powell.

The study is published in Springer’s Journal of Business and Psychology.

Source: Journal of Business and Psychology