There’s a mistaken belief that introverts hate people or are cripplingly shy. That’s not necessarily the case. According to Psychology Today, you’re an introvert if you recharge by spending time alone. In fact, you need to be by yourself in order to recharge, process, and clear your head. You use that time to strategize, plan, and come up with creative solutions. That doesn’t mean you don’t like people; it just means that you prefer being around people in smaller doses than extroverts. Extroverts, on the other hand, feel most comfortable when they’re around people. They gather energy from social situations and feel more at ease when they’re in the presence of others.
do you fit the profile of an introvert?
There are lots of quizzes and personality tests out there to help you determine if you’re more introverted or extroverted, and it’s definitely not a perfect science. In fact there are people who are a mix of both (called ambiverts) and even those flip flop between introverted and extroverted depending on the setting.
Interestingly, introverts tend to be more comfortable addressing large, anonymous groups of people than smaller, face-to-face encounters. While you may be less likely to volunteer an opinion, people tend to take heed when you speak because your responses come from thoughtful, insightful observation instead of random, fire at will, machine gun delivery. Small talk isn’t something you’re comfortable with or find easy, which can sometimes make you seem standoffish or antisocial.
You know how terrific you are but others may find your quiet demeanor off-putting. The last place you want that to happen is in that most uncomfortable situation, the job interview, when making a good first impression and tooting your own horn is critical to your success. Here are some tips to help you overcome your need for solace and put yourself out there when it counts most.
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how to feel more comfortable in a job interview as an introvert
do your research
The best way to build confidence is to feel prepared. Research and learn all you can about the organization you’re interviewing with, as well any information you can gather about the role and the person (or people) interviewing you. You’re a natural planner and you like to feel prepared – take advantage of that. Remember, as Roman philosopher Seneca said, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
ask what to expect
When you schedule your appointment, ask what will happen during the interview. Who will you interview with? Will you be asked to take a skills or behavioral test? How much time should you set aside for the interview? Don’t drill down too much – it’s not an interrogation – but it’s fair to ask for clarification of the basics.
have a plan ahead of time
Make sure you know where you’re going. Plan your route to the location. Organize your wardrobe ahead of time. Choose comfortable, suitable clothing that makes you carry yourself with confidence and feel good about yourself.
Also, prepare talking points for common questions like these 17 difficult interview questions. If keeping your answers straight in your head is overwhelming, write them down. You might find organizing your thoughts on paper is helpful.
be prepared for plans to change
Accept that as much as you prepare, unpredictable things happen. You want to minimize the risk of feeling ambushed, but understand circumstances change and you must adapt. Don’t wait until you’re actively looking for work to take a course in improvisation or public speaking. Most programs that offer classes have courses geared specifically for the workplace.
use your listening skills to your advantage
One of introverts’ biggest strengths is they're excellent listeners. This is a skill that comes in handy in a job interview. Listen to what your interviewer is saying and you might be surprised how often you’ll hear cues that allow you to segue into your prepared talking points, or share related experiences and skills you’ve picked up.
practice makes perfect
Rehearse aloud in front of a mirror. Often, what we think we sound like in our heads is startlingly different than what we actually sound like aloud and it can throw us off our game. Rehearse in front of a friend who’ll play the part of the interviewer and have them grill you with questions. The more research and preparation you do (see above), the easier you’ll find the whole interactive process and the more comfortable you’ll be with making small talk, the bane of the introvert’s existence.
talk yourself up
Introverts generally avoid talking about themselves, which is counter-productive in a job interview situation. As part of your planning process (see below), organize a list of your accomplishments and contributions; consider bringing samples of your work. They’ll give you something to focus on while you’re actually talking about yourself.
fake it ‘til you make it
Everyone experiences performance anxiety from time to time; job interviews are no exception. Anyone who tells you they enjoy the process is an anomaly. Act as if you’re happy to be there. While it may feel like an ordeal, that’s something you’ll want to keep to yourself along with your discomfort and anxiety.
Remember to smile. Putting a smile on your face has been proven to actually change your brain and your mental state, even if you’re faking it. It certainly encourages a good mood in you and in the people around you who can’t refrain from smiling back. A smile is a lot like a yawn in that respect.
use the power of body language
Don’t slouch or act like you’re trying to take up as little space as possible, even if that’s just what you’re doing. Instead, sit up tall, shoulders back, head up; project confidence, even if you’re not feeling it. Also avoid crossing your arms or sitting on your hands, which can make you seem defensive or closed off. Remember, your body language is communicating even in complete silence!
feel out if the job is right for you
Remember, interviews are a two-way street. Ask questions to determine if this role is right for you. Prepare a list of questions about the company, the role and where you might fit into the mix. As an introvert, it’s especially important for you to know about the work culture. Do people work in single or shared cubicles, or is the office unstructured and open? Are there expectations about socializing? Do employees routinely meet after work? Do meetings take place in small boardrooms or does everyone gather out in the open on beanbag chairs?
and finally… don’t be afraid of silence
Remember, it’s where you do some of your best thinking. Don’t fill the pauses with meaningless chatter just because. Buy yourself time by saying something like ‘Good question. Let me think about that.’ There’s no shame in buying yourself a few bonus seconds to compose your answer before you speak.
An interview is your opportunity to let people know what you can do and how you can help their organization if they’re smart enough to hire you. As an introvert, it’s easy to get caught up in your head and wonder if you have the charisma and confidence to pull off job interviews that extroverts seem to handle with no problem. Take a moment to breathe. You have your own strengths, and smart employers will see that.