February 23, 2023

How to do great in a job interview as an introvert

Changing jobs is one of the most stressful moments in our lives. For us introverts, it is way more complicated. Statistics claim that  1/3 to ½ of the population are introverts. That means every second or third person we know is an introvert. That is quite a big power, right? 

People can find introverts to be “lacking sparkle”, less charismatic, antisocial and nervous compared to extroverts. We, introverts, prefer when we are in the position of the observer rather than at the centre of the interest. So how can an introvert get ready for an interview and handle it without an extra amount of stress?

I’ve experienced a couple of interviews in my life. Not as an HR specialist, but as an applicant. I always had to get ready for every single interview. I went through questions that occur in 99,99% of job interviews. When I didn't answer a question the way I practised (e.g., about my experience or the company), I got very disappointed. 

Over the course of time (and experience in HR) I realised that an interview is not a test. It is important to react to a question in the given context. 

Preparation is key to every successful job interview and the more an introvert is ready, the better they feel. However, focusing on perfection can easily knock you out of a selection procedure because you will not be able to showcase your real potential to your possible employer.

Both the HR employee and manager are in a difficult situation and cannot picture you quite well in the position, they don’t know whether you fit in the team. Try not to talk about what you think they want to hear. Stay calm when they ask you a question you were not ready for. Remember, you are also looking for something yourself. 

What helped me personally? 

Step 1: Prepare

Prepare your “speech”. There will always be the question: Tell us something about you. Besides facts and the content, practise. Practice the way you talk. Practice to the point until you sound natural and relaxed, just like when you talk to a friend. Introverts often seem to be nervous. This is a great opportunity to get rid of this stereotype. If your tone of voice, body language and gestures do not correspond with what you say, it is going to be a challenging interview that might not end well.  

Prepare. Not only for questions that are part of the interview procedure, but also for the small talk questions at the beginning of the interview. I am personally not good at small talk, so getting ready for these questions and comments that can immediately establish rapport and likeability made it easier for me.

Step 2: Focus on an introvert’s strengths

We are great listeners; we think carefully about what we say before we say it and we dive deep into subjects. These are all remarkable traits that we need to take as an advantage. I guess you are wondering how to use this as your power. An introvert’s best friend are questions. We get others talking. There will always be space for you and your questions regarding position, company etc. This is a standard thing, so why not get ready? Open-ended questions are useful during an interview. As much as possible, let the other people talk without interruption at their own pace. This shows them that you are interested in the job position, in the company, and it also showcases that you care about what they are sharing.

Step 3: Don’t stress if you don't react quickly

If something surprises you, say: “I will think about it for a moment…” It is completely understandable that you need to think through complex questions. It’s a common misconception that a quick response means good answers.

When we meet people for the first time, generally we create a picture of others very quickly and come to a conclusion concerning their character, like kindness, credibility, motivation and so on. I hope that my findings and experience from an introvert's, as well as an HR professional's point of view, help other introverts make their job interviews easier and less stressful. Don’t worry, we (introverts) can successfully compete with extroverts in this game of interviews. 

Tips for further resources:

Talk Like Ted – a great book that helps you “sell” yourself, improve your rhetorical skills and become more confident in your performance. 

Ted Talk by Kelly McGonigal: How to Make Stress Your Friend - this offers possibilities and specific cases of what to do when you are about to come into the spotlight.

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