How to handle the dreaded face-to-face — and nail it.
Your resume looks great, you've polished your cover letter to perfection, and your skillset is a good fit for the job position to which you're applying. The only thing that stands between you and a new job is the interview.
If you're among the estimated 50 percent of the U.S. population who identifies as an introvert, the prospect of interviewing for a new job can be especially terrifying.
While introverts are often skillful listeners — a trait that will come in handy during the interview process — they often struggle to meet other expectations set by the interviewer, such as a powerful first impression, quick, well-composed answers delivered on the spot, and ease in front of a complete stranger.
As an introvert, are you doomed to fail at interviewing? Definitely not.
Below are nine interview tips to help you and introverts everywhere overcome your fears, survive the interview process, and get the job.
Interview Tip #1: Prepare for the interview.
Set aside ample time to prepare for your interview. The more prepared you feel for an interview, the easier it will be to remain calm and confident when you walk into the interview room.
If freestyling your way to an answer is not your strength, don't put yourself in that position during an interview. Start by re-reading the job description to get a sense of what skills and experience the hiring manager is looking for in a job candidate. Then, study your resume and consider how you meet these requirements. Think of real-life examples from your work history that illustrate your qualifications. This will help you prepare responses to behavioral interview questions you may be asked.
Research common interview questions and brainstorm your answers. The goal is to jot down a few notes on how you'd address the question, rather than write out and memorize each response like a script — you don't want to risk sounding rehearsed and unnatural.
In addition to reviewing the job description and rehearsing your interview responses, do some additional research on the organization, the hiring manager, and anyone else who is scheduled to meet with you. Use sites like LinkedIn to get a better idea of the hiring manager's background, such as his or her school affiliation, work history, professional associations, and hobbies and interests. This information will come in handy when it's time for the pre-interview small talk every introvert fears.
Interview Tip #2: Record a video of yourself in a mock interview.
With a tripod, a cell phone, and a helpful friend, you can stage and record a mock interview in under 30 minutes. Yes, it really is that simple. Minimal time and money invested, and great instant feedback on what the interviewer sees.
As you review the video, pay attention to your willingness to make eye contact and smile. Are your shoulders relaxed or stiff? Do you look scared and uncomfortable, as if you are in an interrogation room with a spotlight on you?
Count the number of times you said “um” when you were unsure how to begin your response. If you notice this as a trend, consider spending more time in preparation. Try pausing for a moment or using an opener like “That is a great question” or “I am glad you asked this,” to give yourself a little more time to think through your response before you deliver it.
A mock interview can give you a brutally honest look at what you need to fix in order to shine when it really counts. Be prepared that it won't be pretty on the first pass and embrace its lessons. After all, you would rather get these mistakes out of the way without an actual job offer hanging in the balance.
Interview Tip #3: Be sure that the job is a good fit for your temperament.
No matter what your temperament is, chances are that any job will require you to step out of your comfort zone at times. The key is to choose a position that honors your natural preference most of the time. Think of it as an equivalent to standing on your head. With some training, virtually everyone can do it for a short while. However, no one should be expected to stand on their head for eight to 10 hours a day.
Just be sure you are interviewing for a job that will make the greatest use of your natural strengths. Pay attention to the interactions with your would-be coworkers and manager, take the time to understand the daily responsibilities and workflow, and imagine yourself doing the job. Does it offer you a balance of time for private reflection and outside interactions? How much energy will the job take, and how much will you get back from the joy of doing it?
Interview Tip #4: Build in some solo time before the interview.
An interview requires a significant energy output for you. Treat it accordingly. If you recharge and prepare best in solitude, be sure to give yourself that solo cushion before the interview to be at your best. Remember that needing quiet time for yourself is not a sign that you are not cut out for the job — it is simply a recognition and an honoring of how you prepare to do your best work.
Interview Tip #5: Remember your strengths.
You are a powerful listener and a great observer. Those are superpowers in an interview setting! Listen deeply. In today's distracted world, people don't get the luxury of undivided attention all that often, and the interviewer is bound to appreciate it.
Many introverts are wonderful at forming one-on-one connections with people once they get to know them. Because things have to move fast in an interview, here's a trick to put your introversion and ability to connect to good use: Go into the conversation pretending that you've known the hiring manager for years.
It seems silly and simple, but it works every time because you skip the emotionally awkward “stranger” stage. Hiring managers seem to appreciate it — after all, having a stiff and shy candidate is no fun for them, either.
Interview Tip #6: Be prepared for small talk.
Oh, the dreaded small talk. Since you cannot escape small talk in an interview, here's a tactic to try.
Head over to the interview meeting 20 to 30 minutes ahead of time and find a local coffee shop. Stop in for a cup of coffee and a bite, and then ask the interviewing manager whether he or she has ever been there. You have a conversation topic and an opinion to share in your back pocket — and it's not about the weather!
Interview Tip #7: Think of aspects of the job that genuinely excite you.
One of the biggest risks with an introverted personality is that you may come across as disinterested in the position. To combat that, give some thought to the parts of the job that you are truly excited about.
Perhaps it is a chance to solve a difficult puzzle, lead a department, or make a difference. Whatever you choose, think of that during the interview, and your enthusiasm and energy will shine even if you are naturally reserved.
Interview Tip #8: Don't brag, inform.
Many introverts are genuinely uncomfortable talking about their success. Whether it's because of a natural inclination to deflate our contributions or because of a childhood admonition to not boast, this tendency can put you at a disadvantage in an interview. After all, the hiring manager uses your past success as an indicator of future contributions to his department. If you are uncomfortable with talking about your success (“bragging”), reframe it as reporting the facts, or restating what others have said. Your goal is to inform the hiring manager to make the best decision.
Interview Tip #9: Allow time to recharge and decompress after the interview.
Build in a post-interview “Do not disturb” block of time. Go for a walk, sit in a coffee shop and decompress, or take a nap. The job search is a marathon, and it does not serve you to burn yourself out in the first two miles.
In closing, remember that introversion is not a curse. Just because you are naturally quiet and thoughtful does not mean you are doomed to fail at interviewing. However, it will require you to prepare, work on your demeanor, and be ready to show up more open and relaxed than you typically would in a first interaction. That effort will take energy, so honor your need to recharge and recover. With these interviewing tips, being an introvert will become your superpower!
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