Your resume is flawless, your cover letter is a work of art, and you’re the perfect fit for the position you’re applying for. But if you’re an introvert, there’s one terrifying hurdle standing between you and gainful employment: the job interview. You’re not necessarily shy or socially anxious just because you're an introvert (some introverts are, some aren’t), but it costs you a lot of energy to meet new people, make small talk, and speak off the cuff. Interviews are full of all of these things, as well as many others that make introverts uncomfortable, and the high-stakes nature of the situation — a job is on the line! — makes it all twice as stressful.
When you feel that kind of stress, you might start to feel like you're never going to get a job that reflects your skills and talents, or maybe even that you don't deserve a good job. But don’t worry — just because interviews are a challenge doesn’t mean you’ll never get hired. The seven tips below can help you nail your next job interview, no matter how introverted you are. And the better you do at interviews, the more confident you'll feel, and the easier they'll become.
1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Anyone would be wise to research the hiring company and consider what they want to say before heading to a job interview, but it’s especially important for introverts. “Preparation is the introvert’s sweet spot,” Jennifer B. Kahnweiler, author of The Genius of Opposites: How Introverts and Extroverts Achieve Extraordinary Results Together, told Bustle. As an introvert, you probably prefer to think before you speak, so use the days before the interview to do that thinking. Write down questions you anticipate your interviewers might ask and talking points you want to bring up, then rehearse what you’ll say in the mirror, in the shower, or with a friend/partner. When the big day arrives, you’ll spend less time scrambling for improvised answers and more time confidently expressing exactly what you mean.
2. Go To Every Interview You Can (Even If You Don’t Really Want The Job)
Think of this as the ultimate form of preparation; after all, practicing in the mirror can’t beat practicing in person in a real-life situation. Going to as many job interviews as possible will give you a chance to learn what kinds of questions you can expect and fine-tune your answers over time. Your interviewers might even let you know about other opportunities at their company.
While job-hunting during the recession in 2009 and 2010, I interviewed for every job I could, including some that would have killed me as an introvert. (Cold calls?! I don’t even like warm calls!) At one company, I interviewed for an administrative assistant position, and I didn’t get the job — but I did well enough at the interview (in part because of all that practice) that they hired me as an editorial assistant, which was a much better fit for me, anyway.
3. Highlight Your Strengths As An Introvert
This doesn’t mean you have to blurt out that you find meetings overstimulating or that you get grouchy when people interrupt your work. You don’t even have to use the word “introvert.” Just point out all those fabulous qualities that make introverts such an asset in the workplace, like excellent written communication skills, independence, and creativity. As Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, told Scientific American, “introverts are comfortable spending time alone, and solitude is a crucial (and underrated) ingredient for creativity.” Discussing your strengths is always more effective when you connect it to specific examples of your experience or accomplishments, so mention that project your previous boss trusted you to handle all on your own or how productive you were on a two-person team.
4. Apply For Jobs Well Suited To Introverts
Bills don’t pay themselves, and sometimes you have to take whatever job you can. But whenever possible, steer your job search toward positions that involve more quiet alone time than interpersonal interaction: data entry over answering phones, social-media managing over publicity, maybe even a job that lets you work from home a few days a week. You’ll be able to make a stronger case during your interview that your skills make you perfect for the job, and your interviewer will be better able to see how great a fit you’d be. Plus when you do get hired, you won’t be stuck in a job that makes you feel like you’re feeding your brain into a paper shredder.
5. Make Eye Contact
Superstar YA author John Green once described writing as a great profession for introverts because we “want to tell you a story but don’t want to make eye contact while telling it.” For many introverts, eye contact is exhausting. It feels overly intimate and it distracts you from thinking carefully about what you want to say, all of which makes it a huge drain on your limited social energy.
Alas, in a job interview, there’s no way around it. You don’t have to like it, but you have to do it. Preparing your talking points beforehand (see tip #1) will help you give polished, thoughtful answers despite the distraction you might feel while gazing into your interviewer’s eyes. It can also be helpful to practice eye contact beforehand with a friend or partner (one who won’t judge you for cracking up at how ridiculous it feels to practice eye contact with a friend or partner).
6. Don’t Phone It In
Why do introverts hate talking on the phone so much? Maybe it’s because, as Sophia Dembling noted in her Psychology Today column “The Introvert’s Corner,” “[l]istening to one thing and seeing something else is a lot of sensory input” for an introvert — plus we want to take the time to think before we speak and “long pauses don't go over well on the phone.”
If you can’t avoid doing an interview over the phone, Jennifer Kahnweiler has some tips. “Try to match the tone, pitch and pace of the interviewer so that you will be in tune with them,” she told Bustle. Additionally: “Think about what the customer service folks are taught — put a smile in your voice. Standing up and even walking around” will make you “sound more alive and full of energy.” She also points out that “the advantage of a phone interview is that you don’t have to hide your notes or talking points.” And hey, at least you don’t have to make eye contact!
7. Schedule Alone Time Before Or After The Interview
The defining feature of introversion is that you find social interactions — even pleasant ones — draining and need some time to yourself to recharge. So a job interview is going to be stressful, no matter how well it goes. Counteract it with one of those activities introverts tend to love: read a book, do a crossword puzzle, or just sit alone in a cafe and sip a soy chai latte. If you do it before the interview, you’ll go in feeling fresh and clear-headed. If you do it afterward, you’ll get to unwind and recover some energy. If you’re unemployed, look on the bright side: you might even have time to do both!
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