What might be the differences between how introverts and extroverts approach a job interview, and might that affect how they prepare?
Over the years, I have written about introverts and extroverts and also wrote a column on ambiverts.
Extroverts, as you likely know, are very outgoing and socially skillful, and get energy from being around others. They tend to think out loud, or verbalize their thoughts.
Introverts tend to be quieter and more reserved. They find social occasions draining and process information internally before speaking.
Ambiverts, of which I am one, are a combination of the two. They are sometimes outgoing, other times, shy and quiet, depending on the situation. I am giving you the stereotypes, and these can all be qualified.
Given these differences in personalities, do introverts approach job interviews differently than non-introverts? If so, how should they prepare for and conduct themselves in job interviews, so the interviewer(s) and organization get an accurate view of who they are and how they might contribute?
I recently read an article by Kat Cohen, “Job Interview Tips for Introverts,” in the August issue of Government Executive. Cohen suggested that introverts make a list of projects in which they excelled, as well as their technical and soft skill capabilities and strengths. While I absolutely agree, I think this is something anyone going into an interview should do.
It’s called preparation. Interviewing is a skill, and, like any skill, it needs to be developed.
My nephew, who I would describe as an extrovert, was in sales positions but has been out of the workforce for some time. Recently, he began seeking employment and a couple of his interviews did not go well. I told him, “If you hadn’t played golf in a year would you expect to go out and play as well as you did in your last best round?” Ask Dustin Johnson or Tiger Woods – who go out and hit 400 balls a day when they are not playing in a tournament – about developing and refining their golf skills.
Interviewing skills – and they are skills – need to be practiced and developed and honed through feedback from others. So, preparation is critical to a good interview, no matter your personality type.
Cohen then goes on to talk about how an introvert might handle a question that catches him or her off-guard. While an extrovert might jump in and respond with the first thing that comes to mind – which could be a good thing or a bad thing – the introvert is more likely to squirm and struggle to respond quickly.
Cohen suggests pausing. Again, I think that is great advice, even if you aren’t an introvert. There is a common misconception out there in “interview land” that the score you receive for your answer is commensurate with how fast you respond. Wrong. The interviewer wants your best response and will not deduct points for “thinking time.”
Years ago, I worked with a woman on my presentation skills who taught me the PRES technique of answering questions in a presentation: P = Pause; R = Respond (with a basic answer); E = Expand on the original answer; and S = Summarize. The same approach works in an interview.
So, what you have done between P and E is given yourself some time to think, collect and organize your thoughts rather than responding immediately. Then, at S, you come back around to say how your response answers the interviewer’s question.
This may help introverts compose themselves and collect and organize their thoughts. It may seem like it has taken hours for this to happen when, in reality, it is 15 to 20 seconds. Video recording a question-and-answer interaction, including the use of a timer, will convince you that the time involved is much less that you imagined.
The last point Cohen mentioned was being prepared with some questions of your own for the interviewer. I know this may be a little more difficult for introverts to do on the fly. This is related to my first point about preparation. All interviewees need to do their “homework” before an interview, introverts, in particular, as it is not as easy for them to be spontaneous.
I have learned over the years as an interviewer that this five- to 10-minute portion of an interview gives me a sense of people’s business acumen, strategic thinking and problem solving. How much have they learned about our organization? Have they been able to put different pieces of information together in the form of a question? Are they perceptive in terms of what they uncovered and what they made of it? This can be the point in the interview where you separate yourself from the field.
So, to summarize with three tips, preparation, preparation and preparation.
EASI•Consult® works with Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. EASI•Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring compliance. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about EASI•Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email [email protected] or call (800) 922-EASI.
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