Job interviews can cause anxiety…
…And women often experience greater anxiety than men.
The difference can be especially strong when trying to “play it cool” under stress—for example, this study found that women who suppressed their emotions during a job interview experienced more than twice as much anxiety as men.
Interviewers tend to prefer the applicants who demonstrate confidence, rather than anxiety.
How can this still lead to a female advantage?
The research evidence just might surprise you.
Effects of interview anxiety
It’s a bit too simple to just consider how much anxiety a person might feel.
We need to consider the observable effects of anxiety.
Let’s go back to the study we just mentioned earlier—the one where women in an interview experienced more than twice as much anxiety as men.
There’s another very important result: no one else could tell that they felt that way.
The interviewers actually thought the women who suppressed their feelings were significantly less anxious than the men they interviewed.
“Playing it cool” can really work, especially for women.
Anxiety and interview performance
There’s a negative correlation between anxiety and job interview performance.
Higher anxiety generally leads to worse outcomes.
But this correlation is significantly stronger for men than it is for women.
Anxiety hurts men’s interview performance more than it hurts women’s performance.
Women might feel more anxiety, but it also doesn’t affect their interview outcomes nearly as much.
Where does this advantage come from?
Women tend to have more experience with certain types of anxiety…
…Especially anxiety related to being judged on their physical appearance, or their general social “appropriateness.”
And these experiences can help women to develop more effective coping strategies over time.
A recent series of studies found the largest differences between men and women in these areas—anxiety about appearance and social “appropriateness.”
Men who were more anxious about these things tended to perform especially badly during their job interviews.
The women who were more anxious about these things actually tended to perform somewhat better.
The most interesting part of all this isn’t just that there are differences between men and women.
It’s how previous experiences, good or bad, really can help people to develop effective coping strategies. This is why something that seems like a disadvantage can actually turn out be an advantage.