In a world full of social media self-promotion, it’s hard to imagine there are people who don’t want to draw attention to themselves. And yet there are plenty. In fact, the Quiet Revolution estimates that nearly half of all humans are introverts by nature – while they may enjoy socializing, they also find it draining, and they crave time alone as well as creative pursuits.
For introverts, one of the most difficult areas of career search is interviewing. An interview is, in essence, an opportunity to sell yourself. But if there’s anything introverts hate, it’s putting themselves on show. This leaves many of them at a disadvantage during interviews compared to their extrovert counterparts, who are naturally more expressive, talkative and gregarious. Although they might have to work a little harder at it, introverts can become good at interviewing, however. It takes preparation, the right mindset and a few tricks. Here are six:
Starting an interview off on the right foot is hugely important to its overall success. According to Jobvite, a candidate’s level of enthusiasm leaves the greatest impression on the vast majority of company recruiters. But an introvert’s calm and thoughtful nature sometimes leads to the appearance of disinterest or boredom, even when it’s not the case at all. Knowing this, introverts need to make a conscious effort to display a strong interest in the interviewer and the job.
One way to do this is to have a few icebreaker comments at the ready before the interview. Check the interviewer’s profile on LinkedIn or other social media for clues you can use in making small talk during the introduction. For instance, if you discover that you come from the same state or went to colleges with rival basketball teams, mention it after you introduce yourself with a big smile and a warm handshake. Making that connection at the beginning establishes trust and shows you’re interested in the other person.
Introverts often have a difficult time speaking off-the-cuff. Preparing answers to some common interview questions ahead of time is essential, especially for those that take a great deal of thought and recall. Imagine being asked something like this: “Tell me about a time you had to solve a client problem creatively.” Most introverts (and maybe a few extroverts too) would need some time to prepare a solid response. If unprepared, you’d be left blurting out a weak answer or, worse, not being able to come up with one at all.
Luckily, it’s easy to find lists of typical interview questions and recommendations on how to respond to them. Work through these, then memorize and rehearse your answers until they sound natural, not scripted. Make sure you have your resume and related materials with you in the interview – a quick glance can provide you with something to say about your experience if you’re at a loss for words. This is hard work, but for introverts it can make the difference between success and failure in an interview.
Of course, not all interviews follow a traditional format of questions. Many hiring managers like to toss out a bizarre question or two to see how a candidate thinks on their feet. Moreover, interview setups go awry on occasion. For example, perhaps you were told that the interview would take place with one person, but when you arrive you’re told that you’ll be interviewing with another. Or that the job description has changed a little, or that you’ll be joining a company event in addition to the interview.
Introverts can find such situations nerve-wracking. But forewarned is forearmed, so mentally prepare yourself for surprises and rehearse how you’d respond to hypothetical situations which require your flexibility. In the case of tough, outside-the-box interview questions, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know the answer, but that you’re eager to give it some thought and respond by email later.
Since introverts build their energy by being alone, it’s important to have some solo time before an interview to tank up. Try to spend at least 30 minutes before arriving at an interview doing what energizes you most – listening to music, reading, sketching, or just thinking. Similarly, you’ll likely need decompression time after an interview. This is a good opportunity to revisit the parts where you felt uncomfortable and consider how you can improve your performance in the future.
Anxiety at being the center of attention, as one always is in an interview, plagues many introverts. While nervousness can set you on edge, it also provides a source of energy and a shot of adrenaline that you can use to your advantage. Concentrate on turning your nerves into alertness and enthusiasm. That means, for instance, making frequent eye contact, smiling, and dropping comments in the right places to reinforce the message that you are interested in the position and the organization.
Maintaining an overall perspective of what an interview is can help introverts relax. You made it to this meeting because you appear to have the skills and experience the organization needs. They need talented staff just as much as you need a new position. In this sense, the company is also putting itself on show to impress you. Imagine that it’s more of a conversation, a give-and-take that allows each side to get to know the other well enough to determine if they fit together.
If you’re like most introverts, you’ll be sapped of strength after an interview. In a number of ways, interviews are an unnatural forum for this personality type, particularly the self-promotional aspect, and they present a challenge. But interviews are a necessary part of the career search process. Get ready beforehand and keep the right frame of mind, and you’ll have as good a chance as any extrovert at winning the hiring manager over.
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