Job applicants more anxious in virtual interviews during the COVID-19 pandemic, study finds

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Current conditions have made applying for jobs more stressful

While much of the workforce has shifted online over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study conducted by researchers from the University of Toronto explored a tricky part of the online interview process. 

According to their findings, the stress and anxiety associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have made the virtual interview even more harrowing for some applicants. 

“Even before the pandemic, interview anxiety was a concern for many applicants,” said researcher Julie McCarthy. “With COVID, it’s a multiple whammy because the competition for jobs has increased and exacerbated the issues around anxiety in interviews.” 

Understanding pandemic anxiety

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, McCarthy and her team were researching how interview anxiety affects consumers. They decided to include questions about the pandemic into their questionnaires and evaluated the responses from over 8,000 people who applied for jobs between April 2020, and August 2020. 

The researchers learned that pandemic-related anxiety impacted how the candidates performed in their interviews. It also affected how they felt about the interview process and the companies where they were interviewing. 

Participants who expressed a lot of worry about the pandemic weren’t likely to do as well during their interviews as those who weren’t as anxious. The researchers found that job candidates who lived in places with the highest cases of COVID-19 were typically the most nervous about the virus. 

Practice makes perfect

While nerves are natural in high-pressure situations like job interviews, it’s important for consumers to feel confident and as relaxed as possible. The researchers’ biggest piece of advice: practice. 

“Get yourself used to the video camera,” said McCarthy. “Conduct a mock interview with someone in your network whom you trust. It’s also important to build your pre-interview confidence levels by thinking about what skills you have to offer and what it is that excites you about working for that company.” 

The researchers worry that additional stress may weed out candidates who are really good fits for their roles but ultimately lose out on the job because of their interview performance. To help consumers feel more comfortable, the team recommends that employers put themselves in the shoes of the people they’re interviewing and tweak the system. 

“To be strategic and maximize benefits for the organization, organizations really want to be thinking about how the platform looks from the applicant’s perspective,” McCarthy said. “If it’s elevating their anxiety levels unnecessarily, then it may be artificially reducing their performance when that candidate could be an amazing individual on the job. 

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