When you have ADHD, interviewing for jobs can be extra anxiety-inducing. You worry about hiding your neurodivergent social behaviors and appearing as the capable employee you are.
Unfortunately, lack of eye contact, fidgeting, forgetfulness, and seemingly off-track comments—all symptoms of ADHD—are often frowned upon in traditional interview settings. You know these behaviors can be difficult to control and are certainly not intentional. Yet, it’s likely that your interviewer doesn’t know this.
So what can you do to interview successfully when you have ADHD?
1. Remember You Are More Than Your ADHD
First and foremost, remember that your ADHD does not define your capability or qualifications. Although you may face different hurdles than others, you are just as capable of doing a job, especially one you’re interested in and passionate about!
You know that you have systems in place that work for you. You’re able to overcome your ADHD symptoms to perform competently.
2. Fidget, But Do It Discretely
You may want to swivel a little in your chair, tap on the table, etc. While you know that fidgeting actually helps you focus better, chances are your interviewer does not. They may view it as unprofessional.
Instead, prepare to fidget during your interview without it being distracting to others. Wear a hair tie around your wrist and gently pull at it under the table. Try rubbing your palm with your thumb under the table or perhaps touch each of your finger pads to your thumb and repeat.
You can also gently bounce your leg or tap your foot quietly if you’re interviewing at a table. If you don’t have the protection of a table, try wiggling just your toes. If you’re on Zoom, it’s much easier to get away with fidgeting so long as it’s off screen.
In short, you can still fidget to help improve your focus and calm your nerves. Just be more discrete about it.
3. Practice Making Eye Contact
Many people with ADHD struggle with eye contact. People often report that making direct eye contact while listening to someone is distracting and results in them not even listening at all, since they’re too distracted trying to keep eye contact.
This won’t be easy, but you can do your best to prepare for it. Write a list of questions you might be asked and then write your answers. Review those as many times as you need. Then, if you can, practice with a friend or family member so you get a feel for making eye contact while listening and answering. You can even practice on your own in front of a mirror.
When it’s time for the interview, remember your practice and any little tips you may have discovered during your practice that work for you. You can also use the age-old sales trick of looking in between someone’s brows to appear as though you’re making eye contact.
4. Prepare. Prepare. Prepare.
One way you can help yourself prepare for a successful interview is to set realistic pre-interview goals for yourself. Accomplishing these small goals and having a plan in place will make the actual interview go a lot smoother.
This could look like:
- Plan to arrive on time: Treat yourself to a drink from your favorite coffee spot beforehand or look forward to a treat after the interview. Look up the route ahead of time so you know how long it may take you to get there. Save the address in your maps.
- Prepare your answers and follow-up questions: Know your strengths. Being able to confidently relay them to the interviewer will make you feel accomplished. The same goes with having your follow-up questions ready to go. Writing them down and practicing them ahead of time is incredibly useful.
- Practice active listening: It can be hard to listen when you’re so focused on trying to remember what you’ll say next. Instead, focus on body language. Limit distractions by turning your phone all the way off.
- Expect the unexpected: Be ready to answer questions about gaps in your resume, etc. Also, practice restating the question at the beginning of your answers. This could be useful in the event your short-term memory acts up and buys you valuable time to get your thoughts back on track.
Interviewing with ADHD can be nerve-wracking. Especially when we think about how it often means we have to “hide” our ADHD. However, there are many strengths that come with having ADHD that employers would be lucky to have, such as creative problem solving and efficiency.
Interviewing with ADHD doesn’t have to be a seemingly impossible task. You can approach your interview confidently, using your unique strengths to show off why you’re a great fit for the role.