Interviews are probably the most stressful part of the job search process. But for introverts, they can be pure torture. There are scientific reasons for this: introverts interact differently than extroverts to the world around them. For instance, it’s second nature for introverts to take their time before speaking or answering a question instead of thinking out loud – while extroverts tend respond quickly and spontaneously.
This behavior may make the introvert seem more quiet and shy, but it what it really means is that when they do speak, the words they share have much thought – and even power – behind them.
If you’re an introvert, how can you make a strong impression in an interview? Here are a few excellent techniques for conquering your fears – and winning the heart of your interviewer.
Say it up front: tell the interviewer you’re an introvert
There’s no shame in it! Millions of people are introverts; your interviewer might even be one. The trick is to highlight the positive aspects of your introverted nature. Most introverts prefer working alone or in small groups, delving deeply into one task at a time and taking their time when it comes to making decisions and solving problems.
You can sell this as one of your strengths when asked the inevitable “What’s your greatest strength?” question. You can say something like, “As an introvert, I’ve discovered that I’m a natural listener and observer. It’s second nature for me to seek out difficulties or obstacles that others are facing. Once I’ve gathered enough information, I can make a thoughtful and impactful contribution.”
Prepare for small talk, even though you prefer deep conversation
While most people enjoy chit-chat, introverts often feel intimidated, bored or exhausted by it. While it admittedly can feel rather pointless, remind yourself that the ultimate purpose of interview small talk is to build a rapport with your interviewer and make him or her like you. So it’s not such a waste of time after all.
To make it easier on yourself, it can help to come up with a few “casual” questions in advance that you can throw in as needed. For example, instead of bringing up the weather, ask your interviewer about his or her favorite seasonal sports or activities. Or when talking about your respective universities, ask which course or which teacher had the most impact on your interviewer – and then tell them about yours – a subject most introverts find fascinating.
Strategically organize your day around your interview
It’s not that introverts don’t enjoy being around people, but the more time they spend interacting with others, the less energy they have. One way to ensure you’re energized for meeting your interviewer is to arrange your schedule so that you have a cushion of “solo” time before the interview to recharge.
And if spending a few hours alone before the interview isn’t feasible for you, try to give yourself at least a 30 minute pause beforehand. Take a walk, listen to some music, and center yourself. This ensures you’ll have maximum energy during the interview – which is crucial to landing the job.
Listen to and follow your interviewer’s conversational cues
Introverts can sometimes come across as bored, standoffish, distant, or even unenthusiastic. They’re not trying to – from the introvert’s perspective, they’re being calm and thoughtful.
To make sure this doesn’t happen during your interview, follow the interviewer’s lead. Is the interviewer’s tone light-hearted? Try to add some humor to your answers. Is her attitude professional and courteous? Follow suit. Is your interviewer using lots of gestures? Try to subtly mirror his or her body language – without exaggerating, of course. If you take your cues from the person you’re speaking with, you’re almost sure to hit the proper note.
Using these strategies, you can make your introversion be viewed as a much-desired asset.