Introverts: Tired of Losing Job Interviews?
Let’s face it, introverts. Extroverts often beat you out in job interviews. They radiate warmth and think well on their feet. Consequently, “People tend to pass you over 'cause you're not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water or stars in the sky”—as the Kermit the Frog song says.
But you don’t have to lose. You just need to assess your strengths and weaknesses—and play to your strengths.
What is an introvert?
First, in case you’re not sure if you’re an introvert, let’s define our terms. If you are an introvert, you tend to focus on internal feelings, rather than on external stimulation. You may very well enjoy other people, but lots of people contact drains your batteries and you need to recharge with alone time. You tend to have a small group of close friends, rather than large circles of friends. You enjoy alone time, and people may see you as “quiet” and “hard to get to know.” You like to think before you act.
So how do you beat the extroverts? Assess your strengths and weaknesses and then play to your strengths.
Be aware that social contact drains your battery.
Most likely, you’re not a hermit. You like people. But at the end of the day, you’d rather kick back and read a book, watch TV, or do some journalling, rather than charge out to a party. Make this work for you by structuring the day of an interview so you have time before and after the interview for some alone time. If you can, avoid marathon interviews in which you interview with one person after another in the company--or see if it's possible to schedule a break or two for yourself in the course of the day.
Use your research skills.
Many introverts are skilled researchers who can ferret out all sorts of information about the interviewer, the company and its issues. What interviewer wouldn’t be impressed by someone who found out about their background and what is really important to them? One client was interviewing for a facilities position and took the time to visit all the organization’s buildings and speak to people who worked there. The employer’s jaw hit the ground when she revealed the extent of her knowledge about the issues they faced. She was hired on the spot.
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Use your listening skills. Introverts may not always be the best at talking, but many are great listeners skilled at drawing people out. Build upon the research you’ve done by asking astute questions to find out about the issues the employer faces and what keeps the boss awake at night.
Be prepared to make small talk. OK. You hate making small talk. But you can’t avoid it in the job interview. The good news is that you can learn how to make small talk, and learning this skill will enrich both your career and professional life. See our related blog article on networking and small talk.
Acknowledge that you’re an introvert
You might let the employer know that you’re an introvert. So, even though you’re very excited about the opportunity, you don’t SEEM as excited as an extrovert might. If this is the case with you, you might reveal that introverts sometimes take time to formulate answers. They search for just the right words. One engineer we worked with took an unusually long time to answer questions. He thought so long and hard to come up with precision answers that people sometimes wondered whether he wasn’t paying attention or if he had dozed off. We coached him to say upfront, “In my work, I think through my answers really carefully before speaking. Employers have appreciated that about me, as I take the time to make sure I’ve got the right answer, instead of shooting from the hip.”
Practice and then practice some more
OK, so you’re not great on your feet. That’s fine. So practice interview questions. Anticipate questions you might be asked. Write out scripts for the tough questions and get them down flat. One introvert we worked with had been out of work for a long time, and people were asking him about it. We worked out a truthful response and he practiced it:
Employer: Why have you been out of work so long?
Client: I think it’s because I never learned to toot my own horn. Since I’ve been working at the same company for a lot of years, people knew my work and reputation and I got assigned to key projects. I never had to look for work or think about how to sell myself. After the company downsized, it took me a while to figure out that I was doing a terrible job of selling myself--and hired a coach to help me. I’ll never be great at job hunting, but I AM great at getting projects done. I’d love to talk about how I can help you. What are some of the biggest issues facing you?
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Make the phone work for you in phone interviews
Be sure to take advantage of the fact that they can’t see you. You can write out notes, scripts, and your resume in front of you. Of course, don’t read them word for word so you sound canned. You might have a mirror in front of you to remind yourself to smile. Add more inflection to your voice than you would in person so the caller hears your interest and enthusiasm
Make your passion work for youIntroverts are at their best when speaking about things about which they are most passionate. Speaking about your passion makes you radiate confidence. Be on the lookout for a chance to talk about things you are passionate about.
Be sure to check out our FREE CAREER WEBINARS.
One introvert client won her job interview by speaking about her passion for training and developing employees and the satisfaction she got from seeing them succeed and get promotions.
Work on your job interviewing. The extroverts don’t always win. You can beat them by being you at your very best.