An introvert walking into an interview: not an ideal situation – unless, of course, you’re the extrovert competing for the job. Introverts are considered more of the listening type, reflective as they soak in their surroundings. During an interview, therefore – where one is expected to deliver quick and knock-‘em-dead responses and chat smartly and openly – the introvert can experience major struggles.
Despite their natural reserve, however, introverts are not doomed to bomb interviews. Just because they’re not inclined to be chatty and outgoing doesn’t mean they don’t have relevant traits. Introverts possess, for example, great listening skills and an ability to think things through before speaking. By utilizing these characteristics and following some simple tips, even the shiest of the shy can nail their next interview.
Know What to Expect
Before entering your interview, get as much information as possible. Do this without probing too forcefully or seeming oddly curious. Who will be conducting the interview? A manager? The president? What sort of format will it assume: one on one, five on one? Having this information will ease an introvert’s nerves and help with preparation.
Review Generic Questions
There are a bunch of commonly used interview questions. Learn them, formulate responses to these questions and practice them. Practice in front of the mirror, in front of friends and family, your dog, goldfish – whoever. There is no justification for not having prepared an answer for common questions like, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Not only does thinking on the spot make you look unprepared, but it will also generate a less impressive answer.
Prepare for Personal Questions
Not every question will be generic. You can expect the interviewer to ask about past experiences, successes, etc. Reflect upon these facts in advance, and prepare to talk about them. Take advantage of your college education and rely on experiences from the classroom, studying abroad, or previous jobs to provide examples. Lastly, remember to use concrete, detailed answers, and avoid vague and opinionated responses when talking about your past and be sure to follow the STAR model!
This can be an especially tough area since revealing personal details isn’t easy for most introverts. Some recruiters can really catch you off guard with personal questions. I was once asked to describe my dream home in great detail, including the neighborhood and appliances. When it comes to these off-the-wall questions, the key is to not read too much into it. Usually the recruiter just wants to find out what makes you tick and see that you have goals for yourself.
Formulate Your Own Questions
Almost every interview is closed with the interviewer asking the interviewee if he or she has any questions. It’s easy for the introvert, exhausted and overwhelmed by the preceding interview, to cop out with a no. Don’t do that. Show that you’re engaged, interested and confident enough to throw your own inquiries out there. Prepare your questions in advance, but don’t ask something that’s been previously addressed in the interview.
Get Back to the Basics
Little things like a firm handshake and unfaltering eye contact can pose problems for introverts. Practice these two concepts on friends and family, getting feedback all the while. Yes, it may be harder to do these things with a complete stranger, but practicing will at least make you more conscientious of both when it comes time for the real deal.
When not busy preparing the aforementioned materials or researching the company, do not think about the interview. Distract yourself with a book, spending time with others or some other unrelated activity. Don’t give yourself the time to get crazy nervous about it. When you feel your anxiety building, think about something else.
It always helps to do something you enjoy right before your interview to put you in a good mood and assuage any last minute jitters. If you’re still feeling anxious, give yourself a pep-talk. Or, call your mom – no one can give a pep-talk like a mom!
No matter where your interview, dress professionally. It is much better to be overdressed than underdressed, so whip out your best attire for the occasion. Also, in an effort to look polished and together, bring a notebook, pen and portfolio with you to the interview. Your portfolio should contain copies of your resume, accolades and any work samples, if applicable.
Send a Thank You
Finally, after your interview, send a thank you note. This is a courteous way to conclude the process, showing manners as well as initiative. A follow-up note also gives you a chance to say any last, unsaid bits you may have forgotten in the actual interview. Don’t go overboard with afterthoughts, though. Use your note mostly as a tool to show your appreciation and excitement regarding the opportunity.