If you’re introverted, you don’t have to change your personality just because you’re going to a job interview. Here’s some advice to fill the awkward breaks.
A job interview is your chance to introduce you to your employer, to convince that you are the right person for the job. Research has shown that employers often swap out the complicated question of who is best qualified for the job, with “who do I like best?”
In the competition to be well liked, the extroverts can have an advantage.
“Personally, I like people who are offensive, who come in as a breath of fresh air and dare to challenge a little, but without becoming apple-handsome. Because we like people who dare to be a little high on the pitch without being arrogant. And that has some energy. It makes everyday life for us who are around them much easier,” says Head of Recruitment at Manpower, Jon Paulsen.
Career advisor and author Wendy Gelberg runs the career-long Gentle Job Search in Boston, USA, and has written a book «The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She says that certain aspects of the job-cutting are well suited to the strengths of the untreatable.
“They thrive in social situations, and have the ability to speak coherently and effortlessly in most situations,” explains Gelberg.
She explains that job search success is strongly linked to networking and finding the tone during an interview. Since these are typical extrovert abilities, it can give them an advantage in job search.
These typical extrovert abilities Gelberg talks about may be what one in personality psychology calls sociability. Being an extrovert is not one thing,” says Olav Vassend, professor of psychology at the University of Oslo.
Extroversion is a trait people have to varying degrees, and it consists of several facets, some of which are sociability, positive emotions, tension-seeking and activity level.
“If you talk about sociability, it is probably the case that if you are low on this, then you will have certain problems in a job interview,” says Vassend.
Introverts think before they speak
A common misconception is that introspection is the same as being shy. It doesn’t have to be. And you don’t have a bad self-esteem if you’re introverted. According to Wendy Gelberg, introversion is characterized by being more quickly stimulated by social interaction and many people, and charging by being alone. In contrast, extroverts get energy from being with others.
This, in combination with answering questions in a straight line, often poses a challenge for introverted people in a job interview.
“The main drawback I hear about from introverts in connection with job interviews is their need to process and think carefully about a question before answering,” says Gelberg.
–Unlike extroverts, who typically prefer to think out loud while formulating an answer, introverts typically prefer to think through things in their heads, and come up with a fully formulated answer – their final conclusion. This can lead to long and uncomfortable silences, which make the interview awkward, says the career adviser.
Make a mark on themselves
Professor of psychology at the University of Oslo, Olav Vassend, has not heard of the fact that introverts should generally have a longer response time than extroverts, but says that people who score high on facet activity in many situations will appear nimble and energetic.
–It has been documented that introverts generally prefer to have it quiet around them, and perhaps especially when working and concentrating. Extroverts, on the other hand, will often prefer more noise and activity, without compromising performance,” he says.
It is also not unconditional good to be an extrovert. According to Gelberg, one pitfall for the extroverts may be that they can’t think about it until they give an answer, which can lead to them unwittingly talking badly about their former boss, or saying something that puts them themselves in a bad light.
Olav Vassend also explains that self-marking is something that is empirically related to extroversion.
“This can be nice to make your mark in a job interview, but if you do too much of it, you can be annoying to work with.
The strengths of the introverted
Job interviews are not just about talking, and about presenting yourself, but also about listening. And at this point, introverts can have an advantage, says Wendy Gelberg.
–Introverts are often good at listening, are probably more patient while the interviewer asks questions, and can thus provide better and more customized answers.
“They can use their natural curiosity and inclination to delve into things, to really understand what the workplace is doing, and the specific challenges that are in the position they are interviewed to. Taking a deep interest, and showing a thorough understanding of these things, can make them stand out from the competition in a positive way,” says the US career adviser.
The same goes for, according to the introvert job expert, the ability to read up and prepare ahead of the job interview. This is an ability she believes is among the strengths of the introverts: the more prepared, the better the impression on the job interview.
Most are located around the middle
The introverted and the extroverts. It sounds like two peoples living on their own planet, and working completely differently. But it doesn’t have to be the case that you fit all the way into one of these boxes.
“A lot of people have a bit of both,” says Professor of Psychology, Olav Vassend.
“You can enjoy other people, and in other contexts you enjoy themselves. It is on a continuum, and most are located around the middle, while far fewer are out in the extremes. But some are extreme – extremely extroverted or introverted, he says.
According to Vassend, being extremely introverted will offer problems beyond just awkward breaks in job interviews, whereas just being a little over medium isn’t necessarily a handicap.
Moreover, there are more things than extroversion that have implications for job success, says the psychology professor:
“The trait that has the greatest impact on positive outcomes in professional life is conscientiousness, along with general intelligence,” he says.
Wendy Gelberg also stresses that introversion is not the only personality factor that contributes to job satisfaction and success:
–Many introverts have happy and successful careers that play against their type.
Advice for introverts in job interviews:
- Remember that the job interview is a conversation and not an interrogation. Use your good listening skills to understand the challenges your employer faces so you can tailor your answers. Show how you’ve solved similar tasks in the past, or how you have the skills to solve such problems.
- Use the same abilities to fully understand the question before you start answering.
- Decide in advance what is the parent you want to communicate to the employer. The only thing you can control at the interview is if you can communicate this message.
- Good places to do this are in response to “tell me about yourself”, “tell me about your strengths and weaknesses”, or in the final conclusion of the interview, where you can summarize your interest in the position.
- If you need to think about a question before answering, you can get away with one or two long breaks by saying “Good question. I can think of several examples of that. Let me think for a moment about which one best illustrates X”. But you can’t use this for every question.