Ask anyone. They’ll tell that interviews are tough. Some will say they’re tougher for introverts than extraverts. Introverts, they argue, don’t make small talk as well as extraverts. They don’t come across as outgoing or friendly. They’re not as likeable. They get easily flustered. This is bunk.
Here’s a fact; interviews are tough for both of those who prefer introversion or extraversion. Are they equally tough for both dichotomies? This is hard to say. Another fact is that introverts can shine in interviews, but they must be successful completing all phases that lead to and include the interview.
For the sake of this article, I’ll assert that interviews demand characteristics that introverts might find more difficult to master than their counterpart. Introverts might have to focus or concentrate more during certain phases of the interview process.
It all begins with research
Introverts are strong researchers. And this carries them through the process of landing interviews. The steps that lead to interviews require them to be prepared. They can’t cheat on any of the phases that follow.
Researching the job description and contacting people in the company can help them with writing their résumés, as they should be tailored to each job. Understanding the required skills and responsibilities is essential.
Similarly, researching the job description will help them answer the tough interview questions. They must go further and study the company’s website, use Google, perhaps Glassdoor.com, and read press releases to gain a full understanding of the company. Researching the company will help them answer question about the company.
To take it a step further, it would behoove them to use labor market websites so they can answer questions about their industry and the company’s competition. Interviewers will be extremely impressed if job candidates can speak to their competition.
Writing compelling job-search marketing literature
This is a phase of the interview process where introverts can really succeed. They enjoy writing and are reluctant to pick up the phone. As I was explaining to my clients, the nice thing about writing their job-search documents is that have time to collect their thoughts.
Introverts will spend more time constructing their marketing literature, e.g., résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile. There can be a risk in spending too much time during the writing phase of the job search, so introverts need to be able to say “done” and not obsess over getting it perfect.
This speaks to the ability to process information. Introverts prefer writing because they can take their time formulating their thoughts. Generally, they spend more time writing than speaking to communicate.
Introverts need to take it a step further and disseminate their résumé in a more effective way. Pundits believe that the success rate of sending one’s résumé to employer via job boards is 4%-10%. Further, there’s the applicant tracking system (ATS) to contend with.
Therefore, it’s important that introverts deliver their résumé/cover letter directly to hiring decision makers, as well as through the job boards. This is a tall order for some introverts, because it requires…you guessed it, networking.
Now it’s time to network
Networking can be intimidating for anyone. The word connotes gathering in a large group of people you don’t know and being forced to make conversation. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Networking should be looked at as “connecting with others.”
Generally speaking, introverts are excellent listeners who come across as truly interested in what others have to say. This can be a benefit while networking. Along with being great listeners, introverts tend to ask questions, which their networking cohorts appreciate.
Keep in mind that one’s preference for introversion or extraversion is about energy level. It’s not about one’s ability to speak. Introverts generally don’t have the energy level and/or the inclination to be with people after a hard day of job hunting.
Because introverts are thoughtful thinkers and excellent listeners, connecting with others can be a strength, not a weakness. They need to keep the following in mind:
- Establish a doable goal. Introverts don’t have to “work the room”; they can talk with two or three people and call it a successful day.
- Networking is a two-way street. Don’t go to an event expecting only to receive. Go to give as well.
- Approach people with the appearance of confidence, even if they’re shaking in their boots. Once conversations begin, the confidence will come.
- Ask questions. People like to be asked questions about themselves.
- Always bring personal business cards. This very popular article explains why they’re needed and what to include on them:
- Finally, don’t assume networking can only occur in a formal setting. Other great ways of connecting with others is by creating buddy groups, which are smaller and more intimate; connect in the community; and schedule coffee dates.
The ever-important interview
What happens before the interview? The correct answer is preparation.
What too many people fail to realize is that preparation is key. With preparation comes confidence, with confidence comes better performance. Introverts are masters at research.
Introverts learn best by studying and researching information and then reflecting upon that information. They internalize what they learn and often put it to writing. In some of my workshops I ask the attendees to write 10 STAR accomplishments on index cards. This helps them remember their accomplishments better.
It’s great that introverts prepare for interviews by studying the job description, the companies website, and labor market information; however, they need to network in large groups or meet-ups, where they can gather important information.
Real-time labor market research, e.g., networking, is sometimes the best way to gather important information.
Listening is an introverts’ strength
Being a great listener can also be beneficial in an interview, where it’s important to hear the questions being asked and not trying to answer the questions without hearing them through. The ability to listen also comes across as being interested in the conversation.
What’s the flip-side of talking too much? That’s right, not talking enough. Here’s where introverts need to be mindful and demonstrate their value through answers that aren’t too short, nor aren’t to long. It’s a tough balancing act.
Be ready to answer tough interview questions
This is where the rubber meets the road, as they say.
With their inclination to research the position, company, and the competition, introverts should be prepared to answer tough interview question, such as behavioral-based ones. They should have their stories ready structured in the STAR format. For those unfamiliar:
S is the situation
T is the task in the situation
A is the action taken to solve the situation
R is the result of their actions.
Whereas introverts might not talk enough, extraverts tend to talk too much. We’ve heard people bemoan, “He must be an extrovert. He talks way too much.” This is believed be true because extraverts aren’t as comfortable with silence as introverts are.
Here’s where introverts can really shine. Given their preference to write, thank you notes should be no problem for them. There are well-stated rules for writing follow-up notes, though.
- The thank you notes must arrive 12-24 hours after the interview.
- Every thank you note needs to be tailored to each interviewer. No formatted notes allowed.
- Do more than thank each individual for their time. Put more effort into it, such as bringing up a point of interest that was mentioned during the interview.
- Also send a thank you note to the recruiter. They greatly appreciate them, and it keeps the recruiters in your network.
Failing to send a thank you note is failing to conclude the interview. I’ve been told by recruiters, HR, and hiring managers that they appreciate thank you notes. They really do. A few of them have said that not sending one can disqualify job candidates.