04 May Hormonology Guide to acing your job interview
- If you’re going on a job interview, you can use the hormonal effects in your menstrual cycle to gain a competitive edge.
UPDATED May 4, 2022 (originally published May 1, 2015)—Looking for a new job and have regular, healthy menstrual cycles? Knowing where you are in your cycle can help you make an even better impression at your interview!
That’s because your verbal abilities, memory, enthusiasm and other factors that affect how well you perform in a job interview naturally wax and wane according to the week you’re on in your monthly cycle due to hormonal fluctuations.
This means that simply by knowing what effects to expect during the week of your cycle that your job interview is scheduled, you can overcome hormonal challenges and capitalize on hormonal strengths so you can leave any hiring manager saying, “That’s the person we want!” Here’s how:
Week 1: Pounce on pain and pop iron
Day 1 (first day of menstruation) to Day 7
Hormonal benefits: Estrogen starts out at its lowest point this week and slowly climbs. This usually means that your memory and other brain skills follow the same pattern–starting off low and slow before finally improving days later. However, this pattern surprisingly (and thankfully!) changes when you experience short-term stress like a job interview. That’s the word from a study out of the University of London that found when rising estrogen on these cycle days is combined with a bit of stress, it sharpens your cognitive abilities by ratcheting up excitement and waking up your brain, helping you perform better.1 So, when you’re feeling tense about the upcoming interview, just remember that the stress is actually making you smarter!
Hormonal challenges: If you get period pain, don’t ignore it. Research shows that being distracted by menstrual cramps can make you appear less focused and attentive. So, use whatever remedies you prefer to get cramp relief, such as an adhesive heat pad, ginger tea or a painkiller. (If you need more ideas for cramp-busters, I’ve got plenty of study-backed remedies here.) Also key: Eat iron-rich foods (such as enriched cereal, beans, tofu or lean protein) or take an iron supplement (15 mg. for women 14 to 18; 18 mg. for women 19 to 50) daily. During menstruation, your energy level can drop due to iron loss as you bleed. Replenishing iron reverses period-related fatigue, revving your pep. (Note: Do not supplement with iron if you have an iron-metabolizing disorder, such as hemochromatosis.)
Week 2: Slow down and relax
Day 8 to ovulation (which is Day 14 in a 28-day cycle, earlier in shorter cycles, later in longer cycles)
Hormonal benefits: During your Week 2, you’ve got a lot going for you: High estrogen and testosterone are making your verbal skills and memory peak, you’re thinking faster on your feet, your confidence is sky-high and you even look more physically attractive due to subtle shifts that make your facial features more symmetrical on these days. You’re also more prone to joking and smiling, which is a good thing since a CareerBuilder survey found that a sense of humor is the top-rated quality in a job candidate.2 Another plus: A study in the journal Hormones and Behavior shows that you’re better at picking up on other people’s emotions, so you’ll likely know when to shift the conversation if you notice the interviewer is getting bored or shows more interest in a particular topic.3
Hormonal challenges: You’ll need to overcome an urge to speak rapidly, which occurs when estrogen climbs as high as it does in this week of your cycle. Try to make a conscious effort to slow down so the hiring manager doesn’t miss any of the insightful and entertaining things you’re saying. Also key: High estrogen can trigger anxiety, resulting in pre-interview jitters. When this happens to you, remember it’s a normal side effect of spiking estrogen and will likely subside once the interview gets underway. If you need help calming the butterflies, try sipping soothing chamomile tea, taking a relaxing walk and/or remembering all the reasons why you deserve this positive, which will boost self-assurance.
Week 3: Eat and energize
Begins the day after ovulation and lasts 8 days (Day 15 to Day 22 in a 28-day cycle)
Hormonal benefits: Throughout your Week 3, progesterone is making you prone to using fewer high notes as you speak, which is a good thing since a study in the journal PLOS ONE shows that women with deeper voices are perceived as more competent and authoritative.4 If the interview happens to fall during the second half of your Week 3, there’s an extra bit of good news for you: The combination of rising estrogen and progesterone has you feeling calmer than during any other time of your cycle thanks to its relaxing effect. You probably also got better sleep on the night before your interview for the same reason.
Hormonal challenges: You’re more prone to the “hunger crankies”–sudden irritability, anxiety or the blues–throughout your Week 3 because progesterone can make you more sensitive to dips in blood sugar between meals. Adding stress about a job interview to a hunger-fueled bad mood can make you appear on-edge, so be sure to eat a snack prior to meeting with the job recruiter to keep your mood level. Also key: Progesterone is sapping your pep and making you a bit quiet and less emotive. So, you may want to remind yourself to show more enthusiasm during the interview, for instance, by gesturing, smiling more and speaking a little more loudly. This hormone is also making you less eloquent as you speak and fogging up your memory. To avoid tripping over your tongue, stick to simple words and phrases or spend more time rehearsing your responses prior to meeting with the recruiter. To avoid forgetting the answer to a critical question, put extra effort into studying a list of key facts and figures you’ll need to know.
Week 4: Practice more and be comfortable
Final 6 days of your cycle
Hormonal benefits: With your body’s level of sedating progesterone dropping like a rock during your premenstrual week, you may feel a bit more alert than you did during your Week 3, making it easier to muster enthusiasm. Another plus: Although plunging estrogen is making you prone to having a negative mindset during your premenstrual week, this could actually work in your favor. That’s because if you go into the interview thinking you don’t have a chance at being offered the job, you could end up performing better since you’ll be convinced you have nothing to lose.
Hormonal challenges: Plunging estrogen can dampen your memory, which can make it more difficult to recall important dates, names and facts as easily. This means it’s more critical than ever to practice answering interview questions beforehand. Another hormonal hurdle: As estrogen drops, you could view yourself as less attractive, which can undermine your confidence during the interview. Plus, it’s making you more physically sensitive to discomfort (like shoes that pinch or a blazer that’s squeezing your shoulders), which can be a distraction. To overcome these challenges, plan to wear an outfit that you feel flatters you and is also discomfort-free. Also key: During your premenstrual week, you’re more likely to beat yourself up over little goofs–for instance, giving a lousy handshake or messing up the interviewer’s name. Try not to dwell on them and instead move on. We all make mistakes even in our best cycle weeks. And, remember the interviewer is looking for an overall picture of what you’re like; one little gaffe likely isn’t going to cost you the job.
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(1) Veena Kumari, Philip J.Corr, “Trait anxiety, stress and the menstrual cycle: Effects on Raven’s Standard Progressive Matrices test”, Personality and Individual Differences, 24 (1998): 615-623
(3) Birgit Derntl, et al., “Emotion recognition accuracy in healthy young females is associated with cycle phase”, Hormones and Behavior, 53 (2008): 90-95
(4) Rindy C. Anderson, Casey A. Klofstad, “Preference for Leaders with Masculine Voices Holds in the Case of Feminine Leadership Roles”, PLOS ONE, published online December 12, 2012