The Introvert’s Guide to Getting Hired
According to a study published in The Journal of Psychological Science, people who listened to or watched (via audio recording or video) job candidates sell themselves in simulated interviews were more impressed than people who read pitches from the same candidates.
So no matter your accomplishments or how brilliant you are, you can’t let your résumé, or even the most finely crafted email, do the talking for you. To land the job, you need to put on a good show in the interview, too. And although this certainly is not impossible for most introverts, who are perfectly capable of being extroverted when necessary, it often doesn’t feel natural or easy.
But there are ways introverted job seekers can give themselves an edge in face-to-face interviews.
1. Do your homework.
“We’re born researchers. We love that quiet time,” says business communication coach Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead. “You always have to read your audience, so find out as much as possible in advance. Research the interviewer, the company. Whatever you can learn will give you a competitive advantage.”
2. Prepare for a quick sale.
Write out a clear and succinct elevator pitch, and practice it. “Know your key accomplishments and how you’re going to talk about them,” Ancowitz says. “Otherwise you might start rambling.”
3. Brag a bit.
Talking about yourself makes many introverts uncomfortable, so start practicing in nonthreatening situations, suggests leadership consultant Jennifer Kahnweiler, author of The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together. Weave tidbits about what you’re working on and what you’re excited about into conversation with friends and family to get comfortable with self-promotion.
4. Make a movie.
Research questions you’re likely to be asked in interviews and rehearse responses. Craft your answers and practice them out loud or, better yet, record yourself. “Watch your posture, your rate of speech, how long it takes you to answer a question, your volume, your eye contact,” Ancowitz says.
5. Enlist your support system.
Lindsey Plewa-Schottland, associate director of the Graduate Career Management Center at Baruch College in New York, recommends finding someone who will do mock interviews with you. Think about what the questions are really asking. “What people tend to fumble with sometimes is not understanding, at first, the point of the questions.”
For example, an interviewer who asks about a situation involving conflict with a client or colleague doesn’t want to hear about the time you got really mad, Plewa-Schottland says. “Conflict can just be a different way of doing things, a different work style. They want an example where you took initiative to address the conflict.”
6. Don’t spare the details.
Ancowitz suggests practicing the skill of interjecting, in case you find yourself with a voluble interviewer. “You can’t let them do all the talking or they won’t know anything about you,” she says. Seek the small moments when you can wedge in—for example, places to say, “Great point, and…” or, “I’d love to add to that…,” as well as using nonverbal signals, such as leaning forward or raising a finger.
Day of the Interview
7. Chill out.
Arrive well rested and try to avoid energy-draining activities beforehand. Plewa-Schottland recommends arriving at the location early. “Have a cup of coffee and try not to think about the interview. Just relax for 15 minutes.”
Body language theory suggests striking a “power pose”—hands on hips like Wonder Woman, for example—can have a confidence-boosting effect. Find a private spot to power pose for two minutes right before the interview.
During the Interview
If you’re still feeling awkward about promoting yourself, think in terms of how advancing your career will help an organization. “Talk about contributing your skills and experience to benefit the organization, enrich and inspire the team,” Ancowitz says. “That takes it away from me, me, me.”
10. Look up.
Don’t forget to pay attention to your nonverbals. “Eye contact is high on the list of importance in a job interview,” Ancowitz says. If eye contact is uncomfortable for you, look at the other person’s eyebrows, nose or ears.
11. Offer clarity.
Introverts’ tendency to be succinct can backfire in interviews. If you’re unsure whether your few words have fully answered a question, offer to add more information. If the interviewer doesn’t encourage you to continue, you have permission to stop.
12. Buy some time.
If you need a minute to think about a question, buy yourself a bit of time by paraphrasing the question, Kahnweiler says. Don’t be embarrassed to return to an earlier topic you feel you could have addressed better. “Just say something like, ‘I had another thought about that question,’ ” she says.
At the end of the interview, take a moment to recap. “Try to end strongly: ‘I want to reiterate why I’m interested in the position and why I’m qualified,’ ” Plewa-Schottland says.
14. Say yes.
If the interviewer invites you for drinks or some other event with colleagues, “The answer is yes,” Ancowitz says. “You’re going, if you want the job.”
Advice for Interviewers
15. Ignore shiny objects.
If you’re the person on the other side of the desk, the one doing the hiring, try not to be so blinded by extroverts’ razzle-dazzle that you miss introverts’ steady glow. Research published in 2012 in the Journal of the Academy of Management suggests that although extroverts are often better at landing jobs, introverts prove to be better team players in the long term. So everyone benefits if you create an atmosphere in which introverted job candidates can show their strengths.
16. Know thyself.
Check yourself for any biases you might bring to the interview. “The slower pace [of introverts] can be taken as lack of enthusiasm,” Kahnweiler says. “The pauses—particularly to a more extroverted interviewer—might be mistaken for lack of passion for the work. And if they don’t brag about themselves or their accomplishments, it’s because a lot of introverts are very self-effacing.”
17. Prep the room.
Take a look at the interview setting itself. “You wouldn’t want to have the interview in blazing lights and near a noisy area,” Kahnweiler says. Putting your desk between you and the candidate interferes with rapport, she adds. Sitting too close can be off-putting for introverts, who value personal space. In a conference room, sitting kitty-corner creates the right amount of intimacy. If it’s a group interview, put the candidate in the middle of the table rather than at the head.
18. Give it time.
Schedule adequate time. “If you schedule yourself too close, you’ll be impatient if the person isn’t talking quickly enough,” Kahnweiler says. Be aware that introverted candidates are likely to pause and think before answering questions, and they won’t fight for conversational space. “Let them speak and don’t interrupt them,” Kahnweiler says. “Particularly if you’re an extrovert, by asking more questions in rapid fire you might be trying to rev it up more.” If you start getting revved up trying to change the energy in the room, pause for a few deep breaths.
19. Speak up.
Of course, not all interviewers are extroverted—if you are an introvert doing the hiring, you might need strategies to help keep control of interviews with extroverted applicants. “You have to get comfortable with gently interrupting them,” Kahnweiler says. “You can say things like, ‘That’s great, I have a few more questions I want to get in…’ ”
20. Drop a line.
Develop a few go-to phrases to signal that you need to keep things moving, such as, “Can you briefly tell me…” or “In a couple of sentences….”
21. Keep it fresh.
Kahnweiler says, “Not every question has to be open-ended.” Try sprinkling different question throughout the interview, such as, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself on…” or forced-choice questions that require yes-or-no responses.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of SUCCESS magazine.