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That anxiety you have about interviewing for your next job may not be such a bad thing after all. That is the finding of new research by three University of Western Ontario researchers who looked at how men and women handled the stresses of job interviews. Their findings showed that women, although typically more stressed about interviewing, performed better than their male counterparts in interviews thanks in large part to the way in which they coped with stress.
"We conducted two different studies," Justin Feeney, a doctoral student who participated on the research team, told BusinessNewsDaily. "The first one examined the effects of job interview anxiety on job interview performance and we confirmed previous research that interview anxiety is a negative predictor of performance. Then what we looked at was whether gender influenced these findings. We found that even though women experienced more interview anxiety than men, it didn’t affect their performance as much as it did for men. We were curious of why that was."
That curiosity drove the researchers to look further into why there was a difference between men and women in interviews. To determine this, the researchers conducted simulated interviews with university students to see the coping mechanisms those students employed.
"We tailored an instrument that measured coping styles of men and women in interviews and what we found was women adapted more proactively than did men," Feeney said. "They would do things like seek social support from loved ones, friends and colleagues about their anxiety and do practical things like practicing mock interviews with their friends. Men, on the other hand, reacted with more maladaptive coping strategies. They would pretend it was not happening, ignore it, watch TV and do things that relieved stress, but hindered performance later."
While the findings of this research may be useful for interviewees, they also have significance for businesses looking to hire. Since businesses also have a lot to lose by hiring the wrong person, Feeney warns businesses not to simply look to the interview as the ultimate predictor of future success or failure.
"Research is showing that anxiety actually impairs the validity of the instrument," said Feeney. "You will actually end up making poor hiring decisions as a result of anxiety. Recent research has shown that coaching applicants from the business perspective can lead to better hiring decisions. Businesses may have a payoff for teaching applicants how to deal with anxiety. That will end up leading to better hiring decisions, which will in turn end up saving them money.
Job applicants, however, can help their own cause by making sure not to shy away from interview anxiety and instead looking to turn that anxiety into increased preparation for the interview.
"Based on the current research, I would suggest really practically focusing on how to improve their performance," said Feeney. "Practice mock interviews and read books on interviews so you can increase your self-efficacy. Talk to friends and family about the interview and how to deal with the anxiety."
The research in this study was conducted by Julie McCarthy, a professor at the Rotman School of Management, Richard Goffin, professor of industrial psychology, and Feeney, all of the University of Western Ontario. To arrive at the findings, the researchers interviewed more than 400 students at the university.