Awkward Interviews: Breaking the Silent Stigma Surrounding Introverts

February 13th, 2014 | Articles, Hiring Resources, Interviewing, Job Search | No Comments »

interviewing introverts

Interviews with introverts are like first dates: brief, awkward, and hardly leaving you filled with confidence. If you have ever sat down to interview an introverted candidate then you know that, while their skills may be ample, they don’t always leave the best impressions. Considering anywhere between one third to half of the population is considered to be introverted, ruling them out of contention for the job could be one of the greatest mistakes a hiring manager can make during the hiring process.

Misconceptions about introverts

According to research, 33 percent of hiring managers decide within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether or not they would hire a candidate. For a gregarious extrovert, 90 seconds is enough time to cover a multitude of relevant topics while still saving time for small talk. For the quiet introvert, however, 90 seconds is barely enough time to warm up the social engine – if they’ve even got the keys out of their pocket.

It’s not that introverts are slow, it’s just that small talk neither comes naturally to them nor seems relevant in the greater scheme of things (in this case, impressing you and getting the job). Their brainpower is exponentially more focused on critical thinking, creativity, and asserting themselves in any given situation.

Unfortunately, hiring managers need to extract as much information as possible out of a candidate before moving forward with the process. Because of this, 67 percent of the people in charge say failing to make eye contact, a quality common in introverts, is a non-verbal mistake that often disqualifies candidates.

Mistakes through preconception

It’s natural to assume that if a person struggles to communicate during the interview then they will not fit in well with the team. The ultimate preconception about introverts is that they dislike people and only function while working alone. The reality is that introverts are proven entrepreneurs, innovators, and highly successful team players (70% of CEOs are self-proclaimed introverts).

Because they spend a great deal of time on inward thinking, introverts often work well in teams because they stay on task, offer well thought out advice and ideas, and don’t waste time with trivial conversations. The universe is all about balance, and introverts perfectly compliment their extroverted counterparts.

Peeling back the layers

Introverts are like onions; they have layers (apologies to DreamWorks). Many of them undoubtedly have what it takes to impress you, it’s just a matter of how you peel away their defenses.

• Expect candid answers: Introverts love to keep things short and to the point.
• Ask follow up questions: This will help get to the meat of their skills.
• Keep it compelling: Inspire them to open up more through compelling conversation.
• Always stay on target: Going off topic throws off the introverted mind.
• Make them comfortable: It may take a few minutes, but he or she will open up.

The benefits of interviewing introverts are that you can guarantee that they will not try to falsely sell themselves to you. If you are interviewing candidates for a sales position then this is obviously disconcerting, but when it comes to programmers and engineers, getting to the raw details of their skills and accomplishments is the prime objective.

By Kevin Withers

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