Controlling anxiety during interviews

Hi everyone, so I am a junior currently going through SA recruiting. On paper my resume looks pretty good: GPA: 3.7/4.0, have a Boutique IB internship and an FLDP internship at Verizon.

However, I get extremely nervous during interviews (I have social anxiety). I even have trouble saying what I prepared and can't even focus on what the interviewer is asking because of the anxiety. I have been to 9 on campus interviews and received no super days or offers. I am starting to get really depressed, has anyone every been through this? Any tips for interviewing?

Are there any finance careers that are better suited for someone who is social anxious/shy?

Comments (29)

Dec 6, 2015

Take a deep breath, buddy.

I used to have pretty bad social anxiety and still suffer from it somewhat. It's tough because it's not just related to interviews, but to other things like dating, meeting new friends, etc. My biggest piece of advice is to just take a deep breadth and remember that whatever you're doing, whether it's interviewing at GS or meeting some girl for coffee, that you are there because you have something to offer. Your resume was clearly good enough to get an interview (good GPA, good experience).

One thing that helped me interview-wise was just being well-prepared. When an interviews asks a technical question, you should not be rattling off a pre-memorized answer, but rather an answer that you have based on your conceptual understanding of the question.

And, please, please, please, don't get depressed over interviews. It's a waste of your time! There is more to life than IB. Trust me. Start calling around at boutiques. Worst case scenario, you have to work there SA and FT. You can always lateral. There are more ways to get to GS than GS SA. Good luck.

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Aug 4, 2016

Hold your breath for 10 seconds (slow ones) and release. Do this 3-4 times until your arm is slightly tingly. This will reduce your heart rate and provide a hint of euphoria. Should calm you down while still remaining lucid. This is an old trick I learned during my Psych undergrad and was taught again in my MBA.

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Best Response
Dec 6, 2015

Your situation is a lot more common than you think. With that said, common does not mean "don't worry about it because everyone does it". The fact of the matter is, from an initial field of 30 people who get first rounds, very few actually get offers. Right now, you are in the majority of people that get cut. As you can see, your problem is not that you are exceptionally anxious, it is that you are in fact quite average.

Investment banking is, bar none, one of the most difficult industries to break into out of college. Let that sink in for a moment. When you are cutting down a field of 30 people to 2-3 offers, you're looking at a 10% chance of securing an offer at best. YOU chose to try and break into the best paid job in the world out of college. Again, let that sink in for a moment. Among those people, 20 will be nervous wrecks as you've described. Those are the easiest people to ding. Some of them looked fucking orgasmic on paper, but today they were the easiest to ding, because as much as that associate wanted to hire the best analyst he could find, we are mammals at the end of the day with survival instincts, and a nervous wreck, today or when we were hunter gatherers, makes it easy for us to categorize them into the "unreliable" pile. Is it possible that, out of those 20, some actually had the most potential to be world class bankers and were destined to start the next Evercore? Maybe. But those people will find a way to break in one way or another. Heck, they might suck at interviewing for the rest of their fucking lives and continue to be socially inept monkeys in interview settings, but through sheer persistence and networking they will find their way into a no-name boutique where they will rise to the occasion, become superstars, lateral, etc. Who the fuck knows? The point is, they're just not breaking in TODAY.

Your problem is that you want to break in today. But, today is not about who will become the best investment banker, its not about who's the best at creating flawless pitchbooks, and its certainly not about who looks the best on paper. Today is about who can best CONVEY THE ILLUSION of confidence, preparedness and the ability to perform. You NEED all three to have a shot at securing an offer today. Why? Because everyone wants to break in today. Not everyone wants to break in at 29 at an associate level, but today, EVERYONE wants a shot at making 140k all in at the age of 21 working one of the most prestigious jobs in the world. That "everyone" includes the naturally talented perfect candidates who, in 2015, are perfectly suited to land investment banking offers.

Look man, you're not that one analyst out of 3 that was born a natural leader, world class speaker, 4.0 GPA varsity athlete, cool man. That's not your problem. Your problem is, you weren't one of the other 2 candidates who didn't have the flawless resume, who had anxiety issues, but found a way to overcome them because they wanted it real bad. Your problem is you think you want it, but you don't want it that bad. You're not hungry, you don't have that chip on your shoulder that keeps you going at 2am, that makes you unafraid to embarrass yourself, gives you the courage to cold-call people just to practice talking if nothing else. Everybody deals with anxiety, but if you want it bad enough anxiety will settle down, turn into resentment into anger into action into... you guessed it, confidence. Once you figure out that you actually want it bad, if that ever happens, you'll figure out what you need to do. People can give you the perfect action plan, but it won't matter until you fix the underlying issue.

Good luck.

You speak in in varying levels of verbosity.You often adopt the typing quirks of others as you find it boring to settle on styles.

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Aug 2, 2016

Totally agree. I know I'm not blessed with the skills that it takes to be a great worker, or great banker, etc. But I do think I am hungrier than most, and I try to always work to my limits so I know what they are.


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Dec 11, 2015

Yeah pretty inspiring, actually reading it everyone morning to keep myself focused and on point

Dec 11, 2015

Well if that wasn't inspiring, I don't know what is.

Dec 11, 2015

Thanks so much, this really helped

Aug 3, 2016

Wow this is one of the most inspirational pieces I've found on WSO, thank you.

Aug 3, 2016

Easily the most motivational post I've read on WSO - printed it out for future reference. Would SB if I had any.

Aug 3, 2016

Damn. So glad this made it back to the front page today. Most inspirational post I've seen on WSO. Thanks for this.

Aug 3, 2016

SB. So true.

Aug 4, 2016

Please do this for a living

Aug 4, 2016

BS. Bullshit.

Mar 25, 2019

Really? So if you don't stay up until 2 am every night researching how to overcome anxiety because you weren't blessed with confidence, it's your fault for not "wanting it that bad"? That's a tad dramatic, don't you think? OP is on here asking for tips, therefore they are already being proactive. You can be inspirational without putting down someone's efforts and motives- based on an assumption you don't even have enough information to make.

Dec 12, 2015

If you're still looking for tips I might be able to offer some advice.

I had the exact same problem as you in my first few interviews. My god they were miserable. I couldn't connect 4 words together coherently, I was a mumbling, stumbling piece of shit. As some of my friends started to get super days and offers as I was left behind, I knew I was doomed if I let that continue.

So how did I solve the problem? Practice.

I decided that I wanted to leave no interview question up to chance. I wanted to go into every interview having practiced the answer to every single question I got. So I spent hours upon hours, literally 3-5 hours a day several days a week for a week or two, practicing my answers by myself. Techincals, behaviorals, bank specific questions, you name it. I was fortunate enough to kill my next phone interview and then convert my first and only super day.

It seems like you have a confidence problem. Practice builds confidence, so you gotta do it. And to echo what the other posters said, you gotta want it. I didn't spend 40 hours on interview prep for nothing, I wanted it so I made it happen.

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Aug 3, 2016

Just picture your interviewer naked. That always worked for me

Aug 4, 2016
Lizard Brain:

Just picture your interviewer naked. That always worked for me

I actually had a really attractive art history professor who did some nude modeling when she was younger. And you're 100% right. Being able to brush off an erection in a public setting gave me the confidence I needed to make the next step in my career.

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Aug 3, 2016

I think a lot of people get nervous, but in my humble opinion, the best cure for general anxiety is having abundance... whether it's dating or interviewing, if you know you have other options, you'll be yourself and won't worry so much about screwing up

Aug 3, 2016

Also, related:

Aug 3, 2016

Just picture that you're naked in front of your interviewer

Aug 3, 2016

Read this 30 minutes before your interviews. I created this a long time ago and is about time I post it on here;

15 Minutes Before Interview

Attitude: Happy, Not Nervous

Intro: Thanks for Meeting Me, I Appreciate The Time

Answers: Short / Brief - 4 Second Rule (pause for 3/4 seconds before answering a question)

Talking / Responses: Slow, Competent, Punctual

Sitting: Up in Chair

Confidence: Be Certain; Never "I Think", "I Guess", "Um.."

Body Language: Hands Crossed - Prey Position, Palms Up

Positioning: Think about what they worry about hiring me - address these points.

Who Are You Talking To?

  • MD: Happy to Crush You with Work, Decent with Clients

-VP: Very Professional, Don't Take Any Chances

-Associate: Lighten Up a Bit - Try to Make Connection

  • Analyst: Make Connection, Show Fun Guy
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Aug 4, 2016

I'm not going to pretend like I've read all the advice...because I didn't read any of it. I am going to give you this tiny bit of perspective. No matter what you have accomplished in life, no matter what position you are in, no matter how much experience you will still be nervous to some degree (unless you're too stupid or arrogant to realize the truth). Good luck man. Know who you are, what you are capable of, what you want to be, and that will go a a LONG way towards curbing your anxiety.

Aug 4, 2016

Actually, I have two pretty simple pieces of advice.

1: Go to toastmasters to practice speaking in front of a large audience.

2: Join a boxing or MMA gym and FIGHT. You want the kind of place where you have to sign a waiver, there is a minimum age limit, and they won't let you participate without protective gear.

Do both of those things and....well, to quote a famous movie "once you fight the volume on everything else gets turned down. Nothing bothers you". There is a lot of truth to state.

Aug 4, 2016

if it helps man just fake your confidence. There's research that shows if you keep faking confidence you'll eventually trick your brain that your are indeed confident.

You can practice by changing your body language to reflect confident gestures and postures

Aug 4, 2016

just do not care what other people think about you because there will always be someone who will have a problem with you,

some people try speaking in front of a mirror and maintain eye contact with their reflection throughout the interview simulation or speech training etc,

some people look at other peoples shoulders or foreheads (this can be counter productive during interviews since reading expression and managing a conversation is part of daily life),

others have such an aggressive eye contact/expression that most people are intimidated by them,

others train with interview prep services,

others practice interviews with their friends

research states (google it) that the first few seconds when you enter the room and start the interview are key due to the biases that develop in most people's minds of which they are not aware most of the time

in the end it is a mind game i guess

Aug 4, 2016
Mar 14, 2018