I’ve had mental health issues long before I ever did my first interview, so every interview I’ve ever had has been done while having a mental illness. Interviewing while experiencing a psychotic episode isn’t a fun experience, I can tell you that. Because of this, I thought it might be a good idea to create a list of interview tips to help people like me do well in their interviews.
Mental Health Interview Tips
What is one of your strengths?
What is one of your weaknesses?
Can you give me an example of a time you displayed leadership?
Why did you apply for this position?
What skills will you bring to this job role?
Prepare some questions to ask your interviewers about the organisation. Written is better than using an electronic device, so take a small notebook with pre-wrote questions you’d like to ask. That way, you can refer to them if you’ve forgotten what they were.
While standard interview preparations, such as researching the organisation you’re interviewing for, would make sense to do, there are other things to prepare for too. If you have mental health issues, then there might be other things you might want to prepare for.
Take some time to figure out any potential mental health hiccups that could arise, then figure out how to manage them. For example, if you don’t like being touched, then prepare for the handshakes that’ll happen during the interview. Although this might be less of an issue at the moment because of covid.
Another example would be if you suffer from dry mouth or get dry mouth because of the medication you’re taking, then pack a bottle of water for the interview. Although you might be offered a drink when you get there, there is no guarantee that’ll happen, so be prepared.
I think this is the most important tip out of all the interview tips. Not that they’ve been put in order of importance. That tip is that you are under no legal obligation to tell your potential employers about your health or mental health conditions.
As I wrote in my article about if you should inform your workplace about your mental health issues, you’re not obligated to. If they ask about your mental health and health issues during the interview, then that can be breaking the law, at least in the UK and the US.
According to Mind, in the UK, your potential employers shouldn’t ask about your health or mental health until after a job offer has been made. If they do, you can report them to the Equality Advice and Support Service by filling out their form for reporting pre-employment health questions.
Furthermore, if such health questions are asked and you don’t get the job, then you can take this employer to the courts or tribunal for discrimination.
Although you shouldn’t be asked about your health or mental health issues, there might still be topics you might find difficult talking about without having to bring it up. Thus, practicing will come in handy here.
Such topics could be if you’ve changed jobs a lot, have gaps in your CV, or changed career. Most employers won’t really be too bothered about these, but it might be something they ask. But being prepared will stop you from getting flustered in the interview.
Most of us with mental health issues might have a tendency to fidget a lot or not make eye contact. But it’s useful to remember that body language and nonverbal communication are important. You don’t have to look the interviews dead in the eyes, instead focus slightly above and look at their forehead. You also don’t have to make eye contact all the time.
If you have a tendency to fidget, like I do, then you could clasp your hands together so you’re not able to fidget. Which is what I do. You could also try talking with your hands, avoiding caffeine, and remembering to breathe.
Although less common nowadays, you may have to bring a copy of your CV with you, or send one as part of the job application. If so, there are several sites where you can create a CV that will standout. I made mine using Novorésumé, but there are others out there as well. Such sites are simple to use and can create eye-catching CVs.
Not strictly an interview tip, more a job hunting tip, but it’s important nonetheless. Don’t let your job search and your interviews define you. It can take a long time to find a job, and you may apply to more than you can count and attend loads of interviews before you get a job. But that’s ok, that’s a part of the process, so don’t let the process define who you are.
Continuing on from tip six about having lots of interviews and applying for lots of jobs, don’t let rejection get you down. You’re likely getting to get rejected a few times before you find a job, and there’s not much you can do about that. If you find that this is starting to stress you out, then remember to engage in some self-care.
Make sure you have time before your interview to help calm your nerves with some breathing exercises. If you don’t know any, then check out my article 10 Great Breathing Exercises For Your Mental Wellbeing.
But in the meantime, here’s one of the breathing exercises called box breathing:
- Breathe in for four seconds through the nose.
- Hold your breath for fours seconds.
- Breathe out through your mouth for four seconds.
- And hold for four seconds.
- Repeat as many times as needed.
If you’re in the waiting area and you feel yourself starting to panic, then try doing a grounding exercise. There are a lot of grounding exercises you can do, but the most common one is the 54321 method. To use this method, all you need to do is the following:
- Identify five things you can see.
- Identify four things you can feel.
- Identify three things you can hear.
- Identify two things you can smell.
- Identify one thing you can taste (this one can be hard, so if you don’t have a drink at hand, you can just recall a flavour you like instead).
If you find interviews and job hunting stressful, then it might be an idea to reduce the others stressors in your life. Cut out or temporarily remove stressors you don’t need in your life while you’re job hunting and attending interviews. Reducing these stressors will give you more energy to focus on this task.
If you’re finding that you’re have a lot of nervous and anxious energy on the run up to your interview(s), then there are a couple of things you can do. You can engage in social activities with friends to help take your mind off of it while feeling better at the same time. The other thing you could try is engaging in other positive activities, such as your hobbies or yoga.
As I’ve said, the job-hunting process can be a long affaire, but don’t rush. People with mental health and health issues may struggle to find employment that suits their needs. But it’s important to find employment that is suited to your requirements, so take your time. If you can, take your time and job hunt at a pace you’re comfortable with so you don’t burnout and put too much pressure on yourself when you have an interview. There will be other jobs and other interviews.
While going through the process of job-hunting and interviewing, don’t forget to be kind to yourself. We are often our own worst critic. Treat yourself with the same kindness as you would treat your family and friends. Treat yourself, and others, with respect and gratitude. And don’t forget to praise yourself as you would offer praise to others.
Negative intrusive thoughts are likely going to pop into your head if you have mental health issues. Before your interview, try to work out a strategy that works best for managing such thoughts. I’ve learnt to ignore my negative intrusive thoughts because I’ve had them since primary school. But for you, a different method might work, such as interrupting the thoughts or challenging the thoughts.
This one sounds easy, but you’d be surprised at how many people can fail at this one, being polite. Be polite with everyone, and I mean everyone. You never know who you might enter the building with you when you turn up for your interview.
If you’re anything like me with my anxiety disorders, I had a tendency to be late to everything because it was the only way to bypass my agoraphobia. Don’t be like that. Get there early so you can have time to settle down when you get there and use a breathing exercise or a grounding technique if you need to.
The interview tips provided in the article should help anyone with a mental illness or health issues to succeed in their interviews. But the key one to remember is that your potential employer can’t ask you directly about your mental health or health until after they’ve made you a job offer.
However, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be indirect questions that could lead you to talk about your health or mental health, such as explaining gaps in your CV. That’s what can make preparing for such questions so important. Because you’ll only want to share what you’re comfortable with and prepared to share, if you need to at all.
Which interview tips do like the most? Are there any interview tips that I’ve missed that might help someone with mental health or health issues succeed in their interviews? Let me know in the comments section below.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, please share your experiences with interviews and any interview tips you may have in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget, if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.