Why Job Interviews Can Be Hard for Introverts (and What to Do About It)

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My career coach, who was helping me make a career transition, spoke some words about introverts and job interviews that nearly caused me to break into a cold sweat:

“The best jobs come from networking. Make a list of the people you know and then connect with them. You’ll need to clearly explain what you’re looking for and ask if they will let you know of any upcoming positions.”

She may as well have told me to walk naked into a room full of strangers. In fact, there was a part of me that almost preferred the naked option to the networking option.

If you’re an introvert like me, promoting yourself can be daunting — even in fields that make great jobs for introverts. Like many introverts, I like to be in the background. It’s nice there. Yet, the funny thing is, I have no problem promoting others.

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So why is it so easy for me to promote someone else, yet when I think about promoting myself, I want the earth to open up and swallow me whole? For that answer, I turned to Kathleen Johnston, Career Strategist/Executive Coach, and the aforementioned career coach who caused my cold sweat.

When I asked Kathleen why it’s so easy for introverts to promote others but hard to promote themselves, she had this to say:

“Many introverts find self-promotion difficult because it requires them to talk about themselves, when their natural preference is to keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. Introverts may be comfortable promoting others, because it does not involve sharing what feels personal or private. Instead, they’re providing an opinion about something outside of themselves.”

How Introverts Can Become More Comfortable with Self-Promotion

According to Kathleen, understanding yourself is one way to feel more comfortable promoting yourself:

“Ideally, both introverts and extroverts can create opportunities for confidence-building by being clear about their unique characteristics and strengths, understanding how work brings meaning to their lives, and then being very deliberate about how to make that happen.”

Much of what Kathleen had me do when I first started working with her was based on being intentional about what I was looking for, and in order for me to do that, I had to figure out what my strengths are.

I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I’m good at, what makes me productive and what drains my energy. Those exercises helped me package my strengths in a way that felt authentic, which ultimately has helped me feel more comfortable when I have to talk about myself.

Equally as important as knowing your strengths is knowing what kind of work environment provides the best fit. The right environment creates the most comfortable space for introverts to demonstrate their competencies at a standard of excellence that is self-evident, said Kathleen. This basically makes self-promotion unnecessary, which is the perfect situation for an introvert.

Truthfully, I had never given much thought to my ideal work environment, even though it’s been a standard question in every interview I’ve ever had. Prior to being intentional about how I like to work, I gave the standard answer of, “I really enjoy being part of a team,” and left it at that.

After giving some thought to how I prefer to work, I changed my answer to, “I do my best work when I am in an environment that allows me to have some time for reflection.”

I nervously used that answer for the first time in an interview last year and was stunned when one of the panel members responded by not only commending me for giving such a thoughtful answer, but also by telling her fellow panel members that she could relate as a fellow introvert. Talk about a huge confidence booster!

Plus, it also told me that my potential new employer understood introverts. Needless to say, I am no longer nervous about using that answer.

Finally, Kathleen recommends energizing yourself with necessary alone time before engaging in an activity that feels like self-promotion.

Taking the time to be clear about my strengths and the type of environment that suits me took a lot of reflective work and insight on my part, and support from my career coach was helpful. I’m happy to say all of that work paid off. I’m much more comfortable when I’m faced with having to promote myself now because I can do so in a way that feels a little more authentic.

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Read this: 4 Talking Points That Will Help You Sell Your Introvert Skills in a Job Interview