Interviews are stressful. They are stressful for the interviewee, for sure; but they are also stressful for the interviewer. They are not sure what to ask, to what extent they might employ humor to break the ice, how “no-nonsense” to appear, and are likely uncomfortable when they perceive that the interviewee is uncomfortable. And these basic phenomena apply to any type of interview, whether someone is applying for a job or receiving feedback during an annual appraisal.
Budnick et al examined the performance of interviewees varying in social anxiety.1 The researchers indicate that in theory, positive interviewer feedback should encourage positive experiences and outcomes for interviewees. Yet, positive feedback is inconsistent with socially anxious interviewees’ negative self-views. Socially anxious interviewees might experience increased self-focus while attempting to reconcile the inconsistency between their self-perceptions and that feedback. The study employed a 3 (positive, negative, no feedback) x 2 (high and low social anxiety) design. The subjects were students who prior to the interview completed a dispositional social anxiety test. The students then engaged in a simulated interview with someone adhering to a standardized script. The findings revealed that following positive feedback, socially anxious interviewees displayed MORE anxiety, LESS assertiveness, and received LOWER success ratings. This was not the case for those with low social anxiety. For those with high social anxiety, the positive feedback contraindicated their negative self views. The researchers state that when considering the large industry that has grown around training interviewees to perform successfully, the results offer suggestions for interview coaches, or even for interviewees without the benefit of coaching. High-anxiety persons might not benefit from traditional dogma. Interviewees need to identify techniques that mitigate self-focus. Interviewers need to understand how anxiety affects performance.
Pharmacy managers will interview prospective candidates for jobs and employees during formal performance appraisals. It might be asking much of pharmacy managers to tailor unique styles of interviewing each candidate/employee, and this study does not necessarily provide relief for what was already considered an unenviable task. Nonetheless, the lesson here is that interviewers can decipher early on what sort of comments and environment place the interviewee at ease so that they react to the best of their ability during an interview. It suggests not to give the socially anxious a “free pass”, but to attempt to discern whether one’s anxiety hinders interview performance and whether decrements in performance on the interview would, or do translate to decrements in job performance.
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1Budnick CJ, Kowal M, Santuzzi AM. Social anxiety and the ironic effects of positive interviewer feedback. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2015;28:71-87.