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I've been told by many people (including my former boss) that I look unhappy or upset about something. This is almost always untrue when people point this out. I attribute this mostly to my anxiety. I'm afraid to show emotion or be outgoing around other people which makes it hard for me to socialize or connect with someone.

I'm afraid this is going to happen again during a job interview. I don't want the interviewer to be afraid or intimidated by me. I want to be outgoing and look like a happy person but I just don't see it going that way, I'll be too anxious, and this always happens.

When I interviewed with my former boss, she said that I seem shy and quiet, which is true. The interview that I was in was a group interview, where multiple candidates would sit around a table and would be interviewed one by one (as if that wasn't stressful enough for me). I think that if this was a private interview, she would have noticed that not only am I shy and quiet but I seem to lack interest in what is going on (which again is completely untrue). I fear that this is going to prevent me from getting another job. What can I do to prevent this from happening the next time?

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4 Answers 4

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Practice

It's that simple. You do not really need an expert, just someone who has done a few interviews, who is willing to help you practise by asking you interview questions, and give you feedback on your body language. Ideally at the start you would have the person provide you with immediate feedback so that you can make corrections and get the feel for what is a good body attitude. Eventually move to giving you feedback after the interview on things to improve. Once you feel you have made progress get a few other people to ask you some interview questions and get their feedback.

Make a recording of the practice. Everyone has smart phones with cameras so it is a lot easier now. Just record a session and review it so that you get an idea of what works and what doesn't.

One of the easiest ways to convey interest is to maintain eye contact. The easiest way I know of to practise that is to ask yourself questions and answer into a mirror. Keep your eyes up and maintain eye contact with yourself. Ask yourself easy questions at first that you feel very comfortable answering, then move into technical questions, and eventually ask yourself personal questions that make you feel uneasy. These questions help you prepare for curve-ball questions in an interview so that you can maintain eye contact even when it gets tough. And the best part is, if you are uncomfortable with someone's appearance, having practised in the mirror should help you to visualize yourself that you are interviewing with instead of the person who is making you uneasy.

If you truly want to improve your ability to interview with strangers, then go to a mall or other open area where strangers go but probably have some spare time and ask them to ask you a few questions from a list. An easy place to start is coffee shops where retired people spend time talking. Usually they are happy to interact and help out. Just explain you are trying to improve your interview skills and ask if they would be willing to ask you a few questions from a sheet. Another advantage here is that older people both have experience with the process, and also are often more willing to give you blunt feedback that you need to improve. This can be difficult for an introvert but the results are worth the pain.

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If you are nervous to the point you can't bring yourself to talk to a stranger at a local coffee shop, a nice stepping stone might be to practice interviewing at a local users group (or whatever is the less formal networking place in your field) Typically these people are looking to network and will be accommodating. (and have knowledge of normal questions in your field) plus having the common interest there it tends to make people more approachable than a total stranger (though I would still recommend practicing with strangers when you're up to it) –  RualStorge May 28 at 16:48

I'm afraid this is going to happen again during a job interview. I don't want the interviewer to be afraid or intimidated by me. I want to be outgoing and look like a happy person but I just don't see it going that way, I'll be too anxious, and this always happens.

First, it sounds like one person is saying one thing about you & another is saying the opposite. So I would just take their opinion for what it is: Their opinion & not a reflection of who you are.

That said, the best way I found to deal with interviewing issues like this is to simply go on as many interviews as possible.

Might sound nuts, but here is the deal: While you might be waiting for the perfect position to come along, there are tons of positions out there that you can apply to & interview for. Just go ahead & apply for more than you are looking for, including positions you might refuse no matter what.

The goal is to be in practice & get used to the basic rhythms of how these things go. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Now I am not saying you should just carpet bomb your application all over the place. But find at least—let’s say—two other positions on top of something you want you can interview for. Anything to get you to be less “rusty” and more spry.

And the net result of that is your tension & awkwardness should start to fade away or at least be controllable. Or you might find you were never tense or awkward but simply have a few colleagues who just might read you wrong.

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I think that if this was a private interview, she would have noticed that not only am I shy and quiet but I seem to lack interest in what is going on (which again is completely untrue).

I think that this is your core problem, and it is easily remedied.

If you want to fight the perception that you are uninterested in something or somebody, then you must:

  1. Act interested.
  2. Ask questions.
  3. Communicate understanding.

For maximal career success, I strongly recommend that you read Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People.

Here are two quotes from the book that are particularly applicable to your situation:

Be interested, not interesting, to people.

And

You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.

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Shy and quiet is often a sign of thyroid deficiency, after confirming tests at your doctors it's easily fixed by some thyroid hormones.

If nothing comes out from the tests, you might just be shy and quiet, easily fixedby pretending to be one of those loud and clumsy monsters wandering earth. :)

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I think it's a lot more likely that people in the IT business are just more than average introverted. –  Jeroen Vannevel May 29 at 2:31
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Hello user, welcome to The Workplace. On our site, we're looking for answers with some depth that explain why and how. Our goal is to build a library of knowledge for navigating the professional workplace. Please consider an edit to expand, and be sure to answer the full question. See How to Answer for details. –  Michael Grubey May 29 at 8:26

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