One of my responsibilities as a Human Resources Manager is to find hard-working, sharp, emotionally intelligent, and savvy folks who care about their coworkers.
Except I run into the same mild frustrations that all recruiters face. I’m aghast at the number of ghosting candidates, appalled by outdated resumes and those who knowingly submit them, shocked by answers that lack accountability, and downright dumbfounded by applicants who cannot follow simple directions.
It would seem those who have the basics of the job hunt nailed down would be fiercely adept at the job interview, but that is not always the case. Too often the bravado of a power handshake or the silky smoothness of personal branding misses the mark for interviewers looking for authenticity and intellect. Enter the introvert’s superpowers.
Employers Are Looking for Introverts
These days, most employers are desperate to find skilled candidates that fit their culture, but they’re coming up empty. Yet, despite the low unemployment rates that make finding excellent matches feel like a looping Tough Mudder race, employers are willing to forego the “fog the mirror” approach for more systematic hiring methods.
This means hiring managers are crafting a recruiting and selection process to separate the wheat from the chaff. A little known secret is they will often sacrifice one or more technical skills in the name of finding the candidate who models an understanding of the company’s values and long-term goals.
Hiring managers will go to great lengths to find candidates with a deep-seated hunger to learn, are decisive without jumping to conclusions, are good listeners, and possess a keen sense of self-awareness. Sound like anyone you know?
Why Job Interviews Are Hell for Introverts
Despite possessing many of the qualities employers are hunting for, introverts often find the job interview process to be absolute hell. It can mean torturous bouts of social engagement where you spill intimate details to perfect strangers, because for some unholy reason, “Tell me about yourself,” is still the number one most asked interview question. Welcome to small talk hell.
Interviews can also place introverts in overstimulation mode as team interviews give way to individual Q & A. Despite all the cheerleading around teamwork and collaboration, interviewers often demand their own one-hour timeslot. So, not only will you repeat yourself five times, you will likely find yourself in the same conference room with the walls closing in on you for up to eight hours. And if you’re really lucky (cursed), you’ll be invited back for round two.
Add hand-shaking, unfamiliar environments, being in the spotlight for hours on end, answering questions with little time to process, and job interviewing becomes one of the most stressful activities we can participate in as introverts.
But finding the right job doesn’t have to mean turning a hobby into cash (although many introverts find satisfaction in entrepreneurship). Success is finding a job, work environment, and boss that shares a mutually beneficial relationship with your unique set of skills.
After all, we’re not shivering in the corner waiting for extroverts to take our dream jobs. As introverts, we simply need to take a different approach to showing employers we’re the best candidate. Here are four tips to do just that.
How to Nail the Job Interview
1. Do your research.
I cringe a little every time a candidate asks questions that are clearly answered on the company website. But there is more to research than the company and the job. (You are carefully reading the job description, correct? And forming some of your questions from it?)
Those are basic expectations. But as an introvert, you can go deeper. You’re a data hunter and gatherer, and you can turn that data into meaningful information.
Make sure to read the company’s “About” and “Q & A” sections of their website. But don’t stop there: If you know the names of the people who will conduct the interview, search the web for information about them. This can provide helpful conversation fillers when things get awkward. Plus, whenever you can get someone talking about themselves, the spotlight is off you and the awkward moment passes.
Be careful when using information gleaned from social media. Even the most consummate professionals will post pictures that show their personalities after hours. Don’t be too quick to judge their activities as much as you can use it to stave off small talk or share common facts.
For example, you won’t want to point out how you know George in accounting is a St. Louis Cardinals fan or that Marsha, the HR manager, collects tea cups — but you can mention your love for Earl Grey when Marsha interviews you or talk about the last Cardinals game you went to when George asks, “How’s your summer been?”
2. Emphasize that you’re looking for your job “home.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of paid employees is 4.2 years. Sure, just like anybody else, introverts might leave a job quickly, searching for the right engagement. In general, introverts will not waste time in environments that will not produce something worthwhile.
It’s okay to be honest about that reality. Show you’ve done your research on their organization and know you have applied not only to a job, but to a boss, to coworkers, and to a job environment you believe will be mutually beneficial.
Wrap it up in a bow by confiding that once you’ve found that home, as an introvert, you are fiercely loyal to your commitments.
3. Pay attention to your body language.
Not sure what to do with your hands? Talk with your hands and show your palms often as a sign of trust. Practice your walk — I’ve known many a hiring manager who will watch a candidate from the time they pull into the parking lot to the time they leave. Does your walk show initiative or sluggishness?
For more body language tips, check out this post from an FBI agent and Harvard psychologist. Confession: I’m guilty of lip compression!
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4. Journal to determine if this is the right position for you.
Journal your thoughts and mood in response to the job posting. Reflect and consider these questions as you move through the process:
- What does the company website tell me about their focus, values, and future? Does their social media reflect a desire to engage with their customer or industry?
- What are my interactions with my interviewers like? How did my body, emotions, and nervous system react to them? Did anyone take getting used to, or was everyone down to earth?
- Is the work environment all work and no play or all play and little work? How does that fit into what I’m looking for?
Don’t forget you’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Introverts are the consummate writers, and the journaling process will be key to your self-awareness, guiding you as you navigate the interview process and consider whether this is the right position for you. Plus, when we prepare ahead of time, we will be more confident in the interview itself as self-awareness of our strengths will give us the edge we need.
Instead of dreading the process, hopefully, you’ve gained some tips so you can sit comfortably in your chair and pull answers from the organized chaos that forms in your complex mind. Introverts, you’ve got this. I’m rooting for you!