If you are an introvert by nature, you may feel that the job interview process will put you at a disadvantage. The job interview process is already somewhat stressful, what more for someone who does not like talking about themselves and making small talk on a regular day.
As an interview coach and behavioural consultant, I have encountered people of various personalities and behavioural types. Different personalities have different challenges during interviews for various reasons. It could be due to the way each person responds to stress, responds to strangers, being forced to think on their feet - all these provoke different reactions from different personalities.
One of the key reasons I focus on doing 1-on-1 interview skills coaching sessions is the firm believe that true improvements in communication and interview skills comes from within each person. A quick fix to being able to speak well would be to coach you on "suitable" answers, but this would be a superficial change, and one that does not work well as it is a rote learning method. Instead, what is more key is to build confidence from inside out, and work on a natural form of delivery for every client, so that it is not the questions that matters, but the ability to tackle any form of question that gets developed.
Being an introvert is not in any way a challenge so long as the introvert embraces their personality and does not try to hide it. Some of my new clients find this hard to understand. So I ask them "would you rather hire someone who is genuine and you trust or would you prefer to work with someone who puts on a front all the time?" Everyone picks the genuine and trustworthy person. So then, be genuine, be true to yourself and be confident. Don't try to be who you are not, because any experienced recruiter will be able to see through it and wonder what you are hiding.
So, how does one embrace their introverted personality and still do well in an interview? For starters, introversion has no impact on one's abilities. In fact, introverted personalities have many strengths - many of which should be highlighted during an interview. Those who are shy and quiet may well have strengths such as being detail oriented, good with understanding people, great listener and many others. Many introverts make great leaders as well, and usually these are introverts who have high self awareness of their own strengths and know how to best leverage on these strengths to become a people leader. So, instead of trying to become a party person during an interview, go into an interview knowing what strengths you have and wish to communicate about.
I find that working with introverts is usually about finding the most comfortable way for them to speak about themselves. And once we hit on the right technique, the discomfort of talking about themselves goes away or gets minimised, and the confidence level rises as well. This then makes the interview process become a whole lot less daunting, as this improvement comes from within. One of the ways that works well would be to use stories, where you talk about yourself in a third party manner i.e. talk about yourself as if you are describing Will Smith or Tom Hanks in a movie. I have worked with a client who has major issues with her confidence of speaking, primarily because of a stutter she has had since childhood. When the coaching first started, I had her going through different question types, and realised that the stutter was most dominant when the questions were personal and non-technical. I asked her to try imagining herself in a movie, and talk about the movie instead of talking about herself. The stutter was greatly reduced and her confidence increased. And once confidence was no longer an issue, she could then absorb and learn other interview techniques to enhance her ability to deal with any interview.
One more challenge that some introverts face is that they may require more time to think about their answers. The quality of the answer is not poorer in quality - in fact, I find that introverts have great depth in their thought process but under a time constrained process such as an interview, introverts tend to allow the stress of the situation get the better of them. Taking a pause to give the question in depth analysis and to frame your answers is not necessarily a bad thing. If this is a toss up between rushing to provide an answer and sounding muddled versus taking some time to think, and then providing an answer that shows insight and critical thinking, then go with the pause. As your confidence grows, you will find that practicing interview skills becomes more effective and can reduce the amount of time required for the pause.
We do need to remember that while embracing your most natural personality is important, we do also need to make an impression during an interview. Working on being genuine and memorable is key and while it may not be comfortable for you to make small talk, you do need to move out of your comfort zone and be able to take on casual questions that go beyond one word answers. Work on answering questions like "how are you today?" and aim to go beyond one word answers. Don't look at this type of prep work as being strictly for an interview - see it as moving yourself into a new habit for social interactions.
At the end of the day, there is no one single personality that works best for an interview. While on the surface it does seem that someone who is an extrovert and handles small talk very easily may have an advantage, the fact of the matter is that the interview is not about looking for someone who is funny and who can be the life of the party. What matters more is a candidate who is genuine, sincere and who has a true passion for wanting to join the organisation and has a commitment to wanting to develop themselves and contribute to the organisation. Enter the interview room with a strong sense of purpose, confidence and a keen awareness of your strengths and value. Do not try to be someone you are not - there is no need to be the life and soul of the party if that is not who you are. Be true to yourself and be memorable.
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Written by: Siew Ling Hwang, Founder and Principal Interview Coach, Discovering Potential
Ms Siew Ling Hwang has extensive experience providing interview skills training. She specialises in conducting 1-on-1 training and workshops for those seeking to improve their interview skills for school interviews as well as for job interviews. She is a Certified Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and NLP Coaching, as well as a Certified Advanced Behavioural Analyst and Career Coach. Her unique skillset in combining real world practices, NLP Coaching techniques and personality and behavioural expertise provides clients with an effective session to achieve real improvements that carry them beyond the interview they are preparing for.