Let’s face it, even the most outwardly confident of candidates can be floored by the intensity of an interview situation. But couple this with a general dislike for small talk, and a preference for listening rather than speaking, and it is easy to see why many introverts would rather be anywhere else.
As the wife of an introvert and the mother of another, I may be biased but I know very well just how brilliant they can be, and how important it is not to write off introverts as inferior to their more conversational counterparts. However, society’s general need for everyone to be all-singing, all-dancing, all-talking means that the very essence of introversion is misunderstood by so many and even treated with suspicion. And this is where the problem lies. It is often nothing that the candidate is doing wrong themselves but a badly trained interviewer may fail to see their skills and be left questioning their ability to make the right impact. Thus, it is up to the candidate to do what they can to open up the mind-set of the decision maker. There are a number of ways of ensuring this happens.
Prepare for small talk
Because there is simply no escaping it. Have a think about how you will respond to general chit-chat. An unwillingness to engage never does anyone any favours and we know how important those first impressions are. It may be helpful to prepare a nice succinct and relevantly focused answer to the question ‘Tell me about yourself’ as this is (ironically) used by many interviewers as a gentle introduction point to the interview. However, it can be a real stalling point if it catches you off-guard.
Choose your words wisely
Introverts tend not to be attention seekers and may struggle, through words and actions, to create the same sense of enthusiasm that their extrovert counterparts so easily embrace. So if you can’t make the big enthusiastic gestures, make sure you are using positive language to describe the work that you do. Show your emotions through words - don’t be afraid to talk about loving a particular part of your job or being proud of your accomplishments. Be achievement focused throughout. Presenting successes with pure quantifiable facts may come easier and should be considered as a guaranteed way of making a good impression.
Own (and sell) your introversion
Addressing upfront the fact that you are a ‘deep thinker’ or a ‘good listener’, for example, not only shows you are self-aware and under no pretences but also gives you a great introduction from which you can start marketing the positives that this approach can bring to an organisation. ‘Being relatively introverted, I find this works in my favour in management situations as I’m prepared to sit back and listen to the views of the team around me….’ Use observations from colleagues to back up your arguments ‘The feedback I’ve received at work is that I’m very supportive and naturally find it easy to assume a mentoring role…’ This will help to convince even the most cynical interviewer of your effectiveness.
Play to your strengths
And there are many. Introverts are usually fastidious planners and will arrive at an interview well prepared with all the information they need to succeed. Take time to listen to questions and use silence to gather your thoughts. (We’ve all been in situations where the extrovert candidate has been so afraid of silence that they have cantered off on a tangent and missed the point entirely. This will never be you). Use your strong powers of reflection and thoughtfulness to pinpoint examples that are most relevant to the questions, and present them in a calm and logical way.
I should end this by saying that not all introverts dislike interviews and, certainly, I am not implying that all introverts struggle with interview performance. Rather that there may be extra hurdles to overcome which need some thinking around. Taking the time to do this will ensure you are able to give it your best.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in St Albans, Hertfordshire but works with clients, via skype, throughout the UK and beyond. Initial careers consultations cost £60. Mock interviews cost £50.