Part of acing a job interview is being able to wow strangers and act confident. This is not easy for an introvert, but Hays’ Robby Vanuxem is here to help.
Do you have an interview coming up? One that you’re otherwise feeling confident in your suitability for? And yet you can’t fight the niggling worry that the other candidates – more specifically, those who might be more extroverted than you – might have the upper hand?
According to Psychology Today: “Introverts are drained by social encounters and energised by solitary, often creative pursuits. Their disposition is frequently misconstrued as shyness … but many introverts socialise easily, they just strongly prefer not to. In fact, the self-styled introvert can be more empathic and interpersonally connected than his or her outgoing counterparts.”
Taking this definition into consideration, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling daunted by what you perceive to be the more talkative and forthcoming interview competition.
However, I want to reassure you that, in actual fact, there is no reason why you can’t give a winning interview performance. Especially if you know how to use your unique qualities as an introvert to your advantage.
Prepare for the questions
Like any interview, it’s important to prepare thoroughly for interview questions before you attend, but this is especially crucial for introverts. Why? Because, as a more introspective person, you may take longer to reflect on the answers that you give.
While doing this is definitely advisable over giving a hurried, poorly thought-out answer, you do run the risk of letting the silence draw out for too long and possibly appearing ill-prepared or aloof.
You can minimise the risk of awkward silences by researching the types of questions to expect in an interview, and thinking about how you would answer them.
You could also consider the kind of things you might say to buy yourself some thinking time, especially if you’re not sure how to answer a question. Phrases like ‘May I take a moment to think about that?’ or ‘That’s a good question, I’ll need a second to think about my answer’ will help in these scenarios.
Showcase your skills during the interview
It’s widely known that diverse personality types make for a dynamic and forward-thinking workforce. But, perhaps you’re wondering what it is exactly that an introverted person can specifically offer.
I’ve been reading up on this topic a lot recently, and reflected upon my experiences during my years working in recruitment. I have deduced that these are the key skills that many introverts can provide to any business.
1. Relationship builders
You may have been subject to the assumption that, as an introvert, you lack social skills. However, the chances are, you are actually great at fostering interpersonal relations – you just have your own way of doing it.
Nancy Ancowitz, author of Self-Promotion for Introverts: The Quiet Guide to Getting Ahead, explains: “As an introvert, your listening-to-talking ratio is higher.” Ancowitz goes on to explain how introverts are able to listen carefully and use their observations to build strong and trusting relationships.
While being inclined to speak less may seem like a disadvantage during an interview situation, you can use it as an opportunity to really listen to what your interviewer is saying, referring back to some of your observations in the answers you give. A job interview is the perfect opportunity for you to demonstrate this quality and all the benefits that a good listener can bring to a business.
It’s clichéd, but actions speak louder than words – and you only get one chance to make a first impression. So, in an interview situation, be mindful of how your body language makes you appear to an interviewer.
A big smile, a confident handshake, looking your interviewer in the eye and allowing your personality to shine through is sure to win over the interviewer from the start. Even if you’re quaking in your boots, you’re more likely to come across as self-confident and skilled if you present yourself well.
Similar to the above point, a good listener is far more open and receptive to feedback from others. Jenn Granneman, author of The Secret Lives of Introverts: Inside Our Hidden World, explains how introverts, by their very nature, spend more time alone reflecting upon their own strengths and shortcomings.
This willingness to improve and make things better is something an employer will really prize in an employee. So, being able to talk about a time when you have taken on feedback in order to make improvements – either to your own role or to the company – will resonate strongly with an interviewer.
I’ll also take this opportunity to point out that even if you don’t get the job this time, remember to request feedback from your recruiter when the time comes, and ask for indicators on how to improve. You never know, this job may not be the one for you but, if you’ve impressed the interviewer, there may be an opening in the future that you’d be considered for, particularly if you’ve demonstrated willingness to take on board suggestions to improve your performance.
Don’t be disheartened by rejection. Work closely with your recruiter as they can advise and help you to bounce back.
Granneman also outlines in her work how introverts aren’t ones for rambling without actually saying anything substantial, or engaging in idle gossip. Simply put, they aren’t time-wasters.
Interacting with other people can be incredibly draining on their levels of productivity, which is why an introvert makes every single interaction worthwhile. They will often have defined goals for every interaction, and spend some time contemplating the interaction afterwards, almost justifying their use of energy on it.
The same approach can be easily applied to an interview setting. Plan your coping strategies, do your research and think about what you want to achieve. Steadfast dedication to a job and the ability to listen without interrupting a speaker is something you can easily demonstrate during an interview.
4. An ‘ideas person’
You don’t need to be the loudest person at the table to be the most valuable. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, quite rightly states: “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
The eagle-eyed attentiveness of an introvert means they’re able to absorb their surroundings, taking in little details that others might miss. In turn, this will allow them to base their ideas on more astute observations.
For introverts like yourself, your ideas are about quality, not quantity. Can you think of a pioneering, well-thought-out suggestion you made that was implemented during your time in previous roles? This is a very commonly asked interview question, and one you could answer to a very high standard if you plan ahead.
An introvert is typically self-motivated, drawing their energies from within without needing any input from others. Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg, are renowned introverts.
In an interview, you don’t need to explicitly say that you’re an introvert, but it’s important that you can emphasise your self-motivation, dedication and focus by providing examples of projects or successes that you managed with little to no oversight.
You want an honest picture of a potential employer, and they want the same from you as a potential employee. Therefore, it is essential that you are your authentic self during the interview, but that you also recognise and emphasise your unique skills as an introvert.
Be proud of your personality, let it shine through and you will no doubt make a lasting impression on your interviewer – an impression based upon you being your true, introverted self.
Robby Vanuxem is the managing director of Hays Belgium.
A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.