ADHD at Work

How to Ace Your Job Interview: An ADHD Primer

You’ve landed a job interview, and you’re excited — but worried that your ADHD symptoms will interfere. Read through these tips from ADHD coaches to learn how to stay organized, focused, and relaxed before and during your interview.

Job interview with ADHD

You know that ADHD symptoms can affect job performance, but what about getting the job in the first place?

During a job interview, the ability to consciously and effectively manage ADHD symptoms and traits – from overthinking and disorganization to impulsivity and emotional dysregulation – could make all the difference. Use these expert tips to help you develop the strategies you’ll need to stay calm, focused, and ready to rock the interview.

Job Interview Tip #1: Avoid Ruminating

An upcoming job interview might cause overthinking to the point of losing sleep or forgetting current responsibilities. You might even hyperfocus on, say, having the perfect suit jacket, or you might get lost in daydreams about the interview. To stop runaway thoughts and over-preparing:

  • Record and redirect: John Tucker, Ph.D., ADHD coach and co-host of the “Differently Wired” podcast, advises writing out your concerns and priorities in two separate columns as part of what he calls the “rule of one.” On one side, write what you’re focusing on. On the other, write everything else that comes to mind.

After recording your concerns, you can redirect to what you need to get done at this moment.

According to Tucker, recording your worries is important because “they will tease and torment you until they get acknowledged.”
[Get This Free Download: What to Ask Yourself to Find the Perfect Job]

Job Interview Tip #2: Create a Calendar and Checklist

Executive functions — and motivation — can be taxed when keeping track of a complex, multi-step application and interview process. To streamline this process:

  • Use checklists: Vancouver-based ADHD coach Dusty Chipura says that a “physical checklist, not in a phone somewhere that you could forget to check, would be helpful” to stay organized and avoid overwhelm.

Job Interview Tip #3: Manage Anxiety and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria

Rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD) causes some candidates to dwell on painful past rejections, and this may affect forthcoming interviews. That’s where preparation and knowing what you can (and can’t) control comes in, advises Tennessee-based ADHD coach Jay Reid.

  • Research and prep: “…Research the company and the position, allow yourself to daydream about getting the job, and jot down your questions for the selection committee,” Reid says. “After that, when you start to drift, tell yourself that you’ve done the thing that’s in your control.”
  • Hydrate: Florida-based ADHD coach Lynn Miner-Rosen, M.Ed. has an even simpler solution: “Drink water! Anxiety often comes on because you are dehydrated.”

[Blog:“I Was So Worried About Getting Fired That My Anxiety Took Over… and I Got Fired for It”]

Job Interview Tip #4: Avoid Oversharing

You’re likely to have many skills, and that inner spark and enthusiasm can be a great addition to workplaces. But excessive talking can sidetrack the job interview and the job itself.

“In my opinion, over-sharing and over-explaining happens when people with ADHD have low self-confidence or they are surprised by the questions or they are so anxious that they forget what they wanted to say,” Miner-Rosen says.

Here are some ways to avoid communication pitfalls during your interview:

  • Rehearse: Friends, ADHD support groups, websites for preparing acting auditions: These are all places to rehearse your answers. “Repetition is a great way to turn down the anxiety,” Reid advises.
  • Take notes: Miner-Rosen says this technique can help slow down your thoughts.
  • Have your answers handy: Consider writing possible answers in a notebook beforehand. On that note, Tucker advises having answers and cues posted next to your screen for Zoom interviews.
  • Set reminders: Chipura advises setting a phone reminder before your interview or “having something that calls you back to yourself and reminds you of your goal of not oversharing.” This could be a discreet reminder, like a special piece of jewelry or a small mark on the inside of your wrist.
  • Bring a fidget: Miner-Rosen also advises bringing an inconspicuous fidget, like a ring. Tucker advises that a pencil is “perfect” to fidget with.
  • Breathe: “Remember to breathe out” to calm your nervous system, Tucker advises.

Job Interview Tip #5: Mind the Resume Gaps

You might have gaps on your resume. Here are some practical ways to get around them:

  • Practice: Think about how you are going to talk about the gaps, Miner-Rosen advises.
  • Change perspectives: Tucker advises using the term “gap year.” You could discuss your non-work accomplishments, like traveling or classes.

“Talk about projects you completed, volunteer work you did, family members you cared for, gig-type jobs you had,” Miner-Rosen says.

  • Avoid getting personal: Miner-Rosen advises it’s best to avoid bringing up mental health struggles when discussing the gaps.
  • Don’t lie about employment gaps: But do have a professional explanation handy.
  • Change your resume format: Consider a combination functional and chronological resume format, meaning organize your resume by skill instead of specific dates, and in chronological order by year. Emphasize the jobs that matter with bullet points and spacing. There are plenty of free resume templates available online that could inspire you.
  • Get help: If meeting with a resume editor is too costly, your local Workforce Commission might have resume resources, and an alumni organization could also help. Support groups, like a local chapter of CHADD or Facebook groups, are also a great resource. Organizations like Dress for Success, Salvation Army, and the AARP also provide resume services.

After the Job Interview: What If I’m Rejected?

Ruminating over what went wrong may bog you down in feelings of unworthiness, obstructing the road ahead. Here are some recovery tips:

  • Have a sad day, with limits: “Allow yourself to feel as awful as you need to for that set amount of time,” Reid says. “After that time is over, start an activity that gets you moving, like cleaning your bathroom, folding laundry… Another activity signals to your ruminating mind that it is time to move on.”
  • Accept the mystery: The company could have hired from within, hired someone they know, or “decided to fill another position first,” Miner-Rosen says. There are myriad reasons why we get rejected from jobs, and it’s not always possible to know them.
  • Do something nice (and cheap) for yourself: Tucker advises against alcohol and self-medicating. Instead, meet up for a coffee with a friend. You could also try baking, dancing, or catching up on your favorite TV show.
  • Take vent notes: Consider taking notes when venting to a friend so you can start planning the next move. “In other words, you’re immediately planning your next foray, even though you’re hurting inside,” Tucker says. “You can make a project out of this.”
  • Maintain self-care: Not having a job doesn’t mean you can’t have a routine or establish patterns that keep your body healthy, like eating well and having a sleep routine. “A healthy lifestyle will make you feel a better sense of agency,” Tucker says, and this could help you continue your search with confidence.
  • Network: Finding a job doesn’t always have to happen through recruiters and headhunters. Talk to friends, old teachers, neighborhood groups, and others in your circle because, according to Miner-Rosen, “you never know who they know.”

Job Interview Tips for Adults with ADHD: Next Steps

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