There's no need to pretend you're a social butterfly.
While many people find interviews stressful, the process can be an introvert’s worst nightmare: Discussing personal achievements, making small talk, and being put on the spot are all things that many introverts would rather avoid.
As both a college counselor and CEO, I have encountered students and employees with all personality types. Introversion is only a disadvantage if a job applicant attempts to hide this quality instead of embracing it.
For example, people with shy personalities might also be detail-oriented, thoughtful, and great listeners, all of which can be extremely valuable professional qualities. They’ll fare better in an interview by highlighting their strengths than by pretending to be a social butterfly.
If you are an introvert, or if self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, it might be particularly hard to answer questions about personal strengths and achievements on the fly. It’s best to go into a job interview with an idea of the points you want to emphasize. Take time to reflect on prior experiences and write out a list of projects you excelled at, technical abilities you acquired, and soft skills you possess. Review your list shortly before an interview for a confidence boost and to help answer questions regarding experience and personal strengths.
In order to avoid curveballs that will put you on the spot throughout the application process, research the company you are interviewing for inside and out. This means going beyond the website and looking at social media accounts, recent media placements and press releases, and review sites such as Glassdoor. Ask a hiring manager who you will be speaking with and get a sense of each person’s background and role within the company. Write out a list of questions you wish to ask each team member and practice responses to common interview discussions regarding strengths and weaknesses, your interest in the organization, and your long-term and short-term goals.
Also consider how you will handle being caught off-guard, which can happen to even the most prepared candidates. Most introverts prefer time to think and reflect before formulating a response to challenging questions. If you are asked something you were not anticipating, don’t be afraid to pause for a moment before answering. Generally, hiring managers who ask difficult or unexpected questions do so to gauge how a candidate approaches a challenge. Instead of trying to change who you are by responding immediately, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your critical thinking skills. Introverts are often strong listeners and creative problem solvers, so take in every word and give yourself a minute or two to formulate a thoughtful response. A nuanced answer that highlights your ability to think critically is far more impressive than replying quickly, but with generic ideas.
While staying true to your personality is critical, so is making a promising impression. Wear something you feel confident in and check out a company’s social media channels in advanced in order to gauge an office’s dress code. If someone you are speaking with asks you about the weather or what you like to do on weekends, avoid one-word answers. Mentioning hobbies and interests can help hiring managers get a sense of who you are outside of the office and how you will fit into a team.
Most importantly, convey your interest in the position you are applying for and the organization as a whole. At the end of the day, the best candidates aren’t the funniest or most outgoing but rather those with a palpable passion and sense of purpose. Lead with your knowledge of the company, professional strengths, and career ambitions, and forget about trying to be the most charming person in the room.
Kat Cohen is the founder and CEO of IvyWise.