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There are a lot of jobs that ask for good communication / leadership skills but I have a social anxiety disorder which basically means that I suck at communicating.

Should I apply and/or go on the interview anyway?

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  • What types of roles are these? Usually I see "Good Communication Skills" as a "filler" requirement. This is because all employers want to hire people with good communication skills. Having said that, communication and leadership skills are going to be more important in sales or management roles as opposed to, say, data entry or software development roles. (Not that you don't need communication skills in those positions.)
    – zmike
    May 12 at 20:53
  • Loosely related: Panic attack in interview: Just leave or explain?
    – Mari-Lou A
    May 13 at 12:42
  • Are you a subject matter expert in their job description? Remember first requirement of a good leader - Professional Knowledge . Communication can be improved May 14 at 22:53
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Depends, but mostly no. "Good communication" is something general and may not be necessary a hard requirement, but if it involves leadership skills it's probably something where you need to manage other people, which would be pretty hard for you to do.

You clearly know where you stand, so you should carefully examine the job postings to get a feeling how critical is communication to the role. But in general, if you are afraid of animals, you wouldn't look for a job at a zoo, so by the same logic you would need to look for jobs where your condition doesn't impact your daily job and performance.

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Generally you do not set yourself up for failure. This just gives you a bad reputation and CV and makes you less employable in the future.

Apply for jobs you are confident you can achieve well in.

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I would say "Maybe".

The thing about "communication skills" is that it covers quite a wide spectrum of abilities. You may well be better at some of them than others.

At one end of the spectrum, we have a technical expert. She needs to write precise documentation about her processes and results. Occasionally she may need to deliver a lecture-style pre-prepared spoken presentation, again on a solid technical foundation. Stereotypically she might be a software developer, an accountant, or a scientist.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have a social expert. She needs to speak confidently and persuasively, to put people at ease and bring them onside. Stereotypically she might be a salesperson, politician or negotiator.

If you are considering a job on the politician end, which specifically requires social confidence exhibited through fluent communication, then it is probably not going to be a good fit if you have serious social anxiety. If you are considering a job closer to the accountant end, it would be reasonable to go for it if you can do the core task effectively.


It is also worth noting that social fluency is a skill which you can improve. If you find that your career progression is blocked because all further advancements require it, look for ways to get better. To be most effective, you'd want a combination of

  • Practice
  • External training, perhaps from a combination of books and mentors
  • Finding your natural tone, remembering in particular that gentle, thoughtful people can be highly effective and very well regarded communicators
  • Practice
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"Good communication skills" is always nice to have. But to a large degree, a team can work fine with some people who don't have it. So if you entered a team with four people, and the team leader knows "if I tell them to do something that is a bad idea, then pia will be too anxious to tell me, so I have to be a bit more careful", that's fine if there are other things where you are good.

So if they ask for "good communication skills", that shouldn't stop you from applying. If they really need it, then you won't get the job, but if you don't apply, you'll never get a job, so apply.

Same but to a lesser degree with leadership skills. They might want leadership skills so you can take over when your boss goes on holiday twice a year. That might not be essential for the job. Or they might want a team leader, who needs leadership skills all year, and you have no chance. You only find out when you apply.

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    I don't understand why this answer is rated so poorly - job advertisements are wish lists. Few (if any) candidates will have everything listed, and employers understand that when they post the ad. Someone not applying just because they're not perfect is going to deny themselves a ton of opportunities.
    – Player One
    May 13 at 6:50
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"Communication skills" is actually a collection of skills, not a single skill. Are all of your communication skills 100% bad? I doubt it. You probably have different degrees of skill in different areas. For example, maybe you have a hard time with public speaking but do just fine with written communication.

It's important to find out which communication skills they're looking for and how your skills match up to this. For example, if you dislike giving presentations and calling people on the phone all day, you probably shouldn't apply to sales jobs.

Also, how good do they need to be for that job? I've seen tons of jobs that ask for good communication skills and I doubt that all of them actually require the same degree of skill. If 1 is "worst possible communication skills" and 10 is "world champion public speaker," then what does "good" actually mean? Are they looking for a 4? A 6? An 8 or 9?

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Should I apply and/or go on the interview anyway?

You should try to find out more about the job if you haven't already. Communication skills are obviously important if you want to be the White House Press Secretary, but they're also important (in a different way) for doctors, lawyers, teachers, computer programmers... any job where you work with other people.

I have a social anxiety disorder which basically means that I suck at communicating

A lot of people are very uncomfortable standing in front of an audience and making a presentation, but "communication skills" are much broader than just that. If you're sitting at a table with some people you know well, can you explain an idea to them clearly? Can you write an email or memorandum that persuades someone to see things your way? Are you able to set aside your own viewpoint and listen openly to someone else's position, even if you don't agree with it? Can you clearly summarize the most important points from a meeting? Can you find a few words that convince people to buy your product?

Those are all communication skills, and I'll bet that you don't suck at all of them. When you're thinking about applying for a job, figure out which communication skills the job most likely needs and whether that's a good fit for your skills and something that you'd enjoy. If you score an interview, know that you've already successfully convinced the employer that you're someone worth looking at. And if you're feeling nervous or anxious in that interview, address the issue by saying something like "I have a hard time talking with people I don't know, but I'm a great listener and I think I write pretty well..." (or whatever applies to you). Basically, be honest and accentuate the positive.

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