Nothing could stop the churning inside my stomach as I sat inside the uninspiring, distractingly white breakroom of a Walgreens waiting to be greeted by two supervisors. They took one look at me and immediately could tell I was a nervous wreck. When I think back, it could’ve been the tightness in my shoulders or the nonstop shaking in my legs (despite my efforts to control my body’s reaction), but I was convinced they were just trained to smell fear.
That is, until they uttered those magic words: “So, tell me about yourself…”
On cue, my achievements, the words I rehearsed in the car, hell, my whole existence evaporated into thin air. I tried my best to recover, stuttering through a lackluster answer that turned their smiles into quirked eyebrows, and I could feel the dejection settling over me. Pair this with the multiple times they tried to assure me I could relax, and you have one of the most uncomfortable interviews I’ve ever experienced.
I walked away without a job, but I gained a mission to gather all the information I possibly could to improve in this inescapable part of life. And in this article, I’d like to share that information with you, in the hope that you’ll never have to go through a similar awful experience.
Why Introverts and Job Interviews Don’t Mix
There comes a time in an introvert’s life when we have the realization that we may have hidden away from the world for too long. When I was teetering the line between needing financial independence and staying inside my comfortable bubble, I began to get frustrated with myself about the lukewarm ways in which I approached the outside world.
I mean… I’m surviving college, right? What more could this world possibly want from me?
Every day, my life proved that it was going to take a lot more than acing my classes. I began to dream about the places I wanted to visit with my friends, the foods I wanted to try, the bills I needed to pay, the car I was going to have to scrape for after the sudden death of my truck, and how I didn’t have the money for any of it. Despite the underlying fear, I made it a goal to get some kind of paycheck and gain the experience needed to secure my future. So, frustrations with my personality be damned, I applied and applied some more, risking awkwardness to call the companies I sent applications to until, finally, I got the fateful call.
For an interview, of course.
For some of us, just the thought of entering the job force can be seriously terrifying. Once the initial excitement fades, the anxiety sets in, making our minds race so much that we wonder why we even did it in the first place: What do I do? What do I say? What if I don’t have enough experience? What if I blank when they ask me a question?
Trust me, I’ve been there. For a lot of us “quiet ones,” job interviews and our introverted nature don’t mix. So, here’s what I’ve learned about finessing your interview and securing the job you took the time to step out of your comfort zone for.
6 Job Interview Tips for Introverts
1. Practice, practice, practice.
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of an interview is not knowing what questions you’ll be asked. One way to prepare yourself is to google default interview questions and prepare responses. Take the time to organize your experience and achievements according to the needs of the job you applied for. Keep them in the notes of your phone or make some flashcards.
Next, find someone you are comfortable practicing with. This could be a sibling, friend, or parent. Luckily, my mother had some experience with interviewing job candidates, so she proved to be a valuable resource. There are also outside sources such as local and university career services that help you to prepare by giving tips as well as mock interviews. I recommend taking advantage of these because it’s as close as you’ll get to the real thing — except they will give an overview of your strengths and weaknesses with ways to improve them.
An interview is supposed to be as natural as a conversation, so don’t be too rehearsed with your answers. Unfortunately, you’ll never know the order or variations of questions they’ll ask you, unless you were burdened with the power of mind-reading. To give yourself a little time to organize your thoughts, repeat part of the question in your answer. For example, “I believe I will make a good addition to this company because…” After that is the time to use those impressive achievements that should be circulating in your mind from all that practice.
2. Make an impression.
Looking the part for an interview is one of those underestimated confidence-builders. When you look great, you feel great. One of our most defining traits as introverts is we don’t want to be seen, but unfortunately, when you’re in their house, you will want to make an impression.
Business casual outfits are always best, and will show them you’re serious about the position you applied for. If you want to keep it simple, a button down shirt, black dress pants, and flats or dress shoes will do. However, if you’re feeling particularly good that day, you may even want to throw on a skirt and heels, or if you’re a man, a blazer or suit jacket. Ultimately, the decision is in your very capable hands.
Your body language should reflect confidence. Sit with your back straight and maintain eye contact while you speak with the interviewer. This will give the impression of being attentive, one of the qualities many employers look for in a potential employee.
3. Be prepared.
Sometimes it pays to know a little extra during interviews, so it’s always a good idea to research the company ahead of time. As an introvert, I’ve always been good at researching the unknown — it’s one of our many safety nets. What are the company’s objectives? Their products? Really think about the services they provide and convince them that you could be a useful contribution to the team.
One of the best ways to get this information would be the company website in the “about us” section. Useful gems about the company could even be in the Q&A section on websites like Indeed or Glassdoor. There are many employees willing to give information about not only the interview/hiring process, but the pros and cons they’ve encountered during employment.
However, the best way to get any questions answered is directly from the source. Don’t be afraid to engage in conversation about day-to-day life on the job. Ask about their experiences in their position and what made them stay at the company. Trust me, this will be for your benefit in the long run.
4. Fake it.
Even dressed up and prepared, we may not feel confident, and really, it’s okay. Sometimes life is about putting on a brave face and slapping on a smile even when we don’t feel like it. I know it’s exhausting, but consider this: It’s a small price to pay for getting the job you want.
Give yourself a few moments to breathe, set your shoulders, and think about what you want to say. It seems a little obsessive, but I find writing responses to those core interview questions helps a lot. If you write them down, it gets your juices flowing, those synapses firing, and it’s easier to naturally navigate the interview process. Don’t be afraid to sell yourself, but don’t think of it as “selling” — think of it as just smiling and talking about the great things that make you, well, you!
5. Reaffirm yourself.
After you leave, tell yourself that you did your best. Even if you feel it wasn’t, there is always an opportunity to improve, especially now that you’ve gotten an idea of the questions asked and the personalities that are attached to a manager or supervisor. Celebrate the mere fact that you got through it, and wait it out. The outcome may very well surprise you. In the event that it doesn’t, however, the next point will be very imperative.
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6. Don’t give up.
If you find yourself stumbling your way through the interview or getting the email (you know the one: “we’ve decided to explore other candidates”), just keep applying. The best of the best have experienced this exact thing. This position may not have been the one for you, but I guarantee that if you keep putting yourself out there, building on your knowledge and confidence through these experiences (whether good or bad), someone will definitely see your potential.
And remember, the job market is an extremely overwhelming, competitive place through no fault of your own — which is why you shouldn’t take it personally. I wish you the very best of luck!