As I sit down to write about how the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) tool can help us deal with stress during interviews, I’m a bit stressed myself.
I need to get ready for a workshop later this week. Every time I’ve tried to sit down and prepare this morning, my brain has filled up with a litany of other things. My plate is already full, but I keep adding more portions to it.
Then, I realize that so much of how I deal with everyday stress relates to my own personality type preferences. Your stress (and how you cope with it) relates to your personality type too.
We all deal with stressful situations. Add stress during interviews to your daily stress and it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed.
But the way you deal with stress during interviews is usually different from the way others with different personality types deal with stress.
What stresses me could be a piece of cake for you, and vice versa. Below are a few explanations of how stress relates to your own MBTI personality type preferences, as well as some tips to help you manage your pre-interview jitters. (And if you’ve just started the job search or are thinking of starting a job search, check out the blog series on MBTI type and careers here.)
Extraverted Sensing (ESTP and ESFP)
People with ESTP and ESFP preferences rely on understanding and presenting information in a sequential, “here and now” way. As they start to get stressed, they overdo this approach, obsessing over details that previously weren’t important. Further, they spend so much time on taking in these facts that they neglect to make any decisions based on the facts.
Stress while preparing for an interview turns into obsessing over every detail of the interview process. This leads you to spend time on things that won’t matter in the end at the expense of the important things. If, when you’re in the interview room, you start sharing a load of irrelevant details, it comes across as too much to the interviewer.
How to Handle It: When you start obsessing over details that previously weren’t important to you, stop where you are and list out all the things on your mind. Then, go through your list and cut half of them out. Then cut the list in half again. This will allow you to focus on what is truly important, instead of focusing on all the other stuff that your stress is bringing in.
Introverted Sensing (ISTJ and ISFJ)
ISTJ and ISFJ preferences take in information internally in a step-by-step way related to important facts from the past. As they get stressed, they overdo this approach. They end up going inward and rigidly insisting that what they see in the present must relate to what they know from the past. In addition, they spend so much time focusing on these past facts and details they forget to make any new decisions.
Preparing for an interview might turn into closing yourself off from new, untested possibilities. You could skip interviews where you don’t feel you have enough experience. Once you’re in the actual interview, the stress you’re feeling makes you look a bit too rigid or “by the book.” You risk coming across as not open to new ideas or processes.
How to Handle It: When you start thinking, “That’s not how it’s supposed to be done,” ask yourself, “what are the ways it can be done, and how can I do it?” This will help you stay open to new ideas and possibilities. During the actual interview, provide examples of how you can think outside the box.
Extraverted Intuition (ENFP and ENTP)
ENFP and ENTP preferences take in and present information in a big-picture and future-possibilities way. As they get stressed, they get sidetracked with too many what-ifs. Also, they spend so much time exploring all these possibilities that they end up not deciding on any of them.
When stressed, preparing for an interview turns into imagining all the things that could go wrong instead of focusing on what could go right. This “catastrophizing” approach to understanding what is going on makes you come across during an interview as scattered and unfocused.
How to Handle It: When you find yourself focused on negative what-ifs, try to find a few positive what-ifs to balance the possibilities out. Then, reflect on your what-if scenarios and determine how realistic each one truly is. During the actual interview, remember not to get carried away with too many possibilities. Be sure to share how you have brought your big-picture ideas to fruition in the past.
Introverted Intuition (INTJ and INFJ)
People with INTJ and INFJ preferences take in and present information in a big-picture, long-term, and visionary way. As they start to get stressed, they get sidetracked with unrealistic theories. Similar to people with ENTP and ENFP preferences, they spend so much time exploring all these theories that they end up not deciding on any of them.
If you’re stressed when preparing for an interview, you start putting patterns together that don’t even exist. This “spinning out of control” approach to understanding what might happen to you ten years from now might make it hard for you to see the reality right in front of you. During an interview, you could then come across as flighty or impractical.
How to Handle It: When you find yourself overwhelmed with too many long-term possibilities, make a conscious effort to focus on what is right in front of you. This can help you make realistic and practical decisions. During the actual interview, if you find yourself going too far into the future, explain the steps of your thought process to help your interviewer understand where you have gone.
Extraverted Thinking (ESTJ and ENTJ)
People with ESTJ and ENTJ preferences make decisions based on an external, objective, and logical organization of the task at hand. As they start to get stressed, they overdo this approach by acting bossy or pushy. Further, they jump to decisions before spending enough time taking in the facts and possibilities.
Preparing for an interview might turn into over-organizing every part of the process (perhaps before you even have all the information you need to make decisions). During the interview, you come across as a bit cold and impersonal. Your answers could be so focused on tasks that you forget to mention how your decisions impact people.
How to Handle It: If you feel the urge to organize every single part of the interview process, you are likely jumping to conclusions before you have all the information you need to make any decisions. During the interview, remember to consider “people issues” as well as your preference for getting things done on time and right the first time.
Introverted Thinking (ISTP and INTP)
People with ISTP and INTP preferences make decisions based on an internal analysis of the pros and cons of that decision. As they get stressed, they overdo this approach by withdrawing to analyze every possible con as it relates to the task at hand. In addition, they jump to judgment before spending enough time taking in facts and possibilities.
Preparing for an interview might turn into suddenly closing off previously interesting job options. During the interview, you come across as a bit too critical of ideas presented to you. You may not say anything out loud, but people can often read what your face is telling them.
How to Handle It: When you start dismissing possibilities right off the bat, you are likely jumping to conclusions too soon. During an interview, be conscious of the non-verbal negative signals you may be giving off. Be sure to communicate your awareness of how decisions can impact the people involved.
Extraverted Feeling (ESFJ and ENFJ)
People with ESFJ and ENFJ preferences make decisions based on how those decisions will impact others. As they start to get stressed, they focus too much on what others need and not enough on what they themselves need. Also, they make decisions about what is best for everyone else based on no real data.
As you prepare for an interview, you might close off new possibilities and/or facts in favor of what you think will make everyone happy. During the interview, you might incorrectly assume the interviewer doesn’t think you can make a positive impact on the team and then spend too much focus on wanting to be liked.
How to Handle It: When you start (and finish the interview process), stay open to what you want and need — not just what you think would make others happy. Remember, take care of yourself before you take care of others. During the interview, try not to focus so much on what others think of you, as that will come across as needy.
Introverted Feeling (ISFP and INFP)
Those with ISFP and INFP preferences often make decisions based on their own internal value systems. As they start to get stressed, they overuse this approach by relying solely on their values and no one else’s when making decisions. Also, they jump to the conclusion that their values have been violated when that might not be the case.
As you prepare for an interview, you might close off new possibilities and/or facts in favor of your predetermined notion of what you believe to be true. During the interview, you might assume the person interviewing you doesn’t understand or appreciate what is important to you. This might not be the case at all. (I’ve learned this point firsthand!)
How to Handle It: When you start the interview process, stay open to options before ruling them out right away. Remember, your value judgments are usually right. But during stress you may jump to conclusions too soon. During the interview, remember to outwardly express what is important to you. Just because you hold a value doesn’t mean everyone else holds the same value.