Most of us have a bad interview story up our sleeve – myself included. I seem to remember, when I was interviewed for my current role, one of our directors asking me ‘so why do you want to go back into recruitment?’ After an awkward pause, I answered along the lines of… ‘I don’t know if anyone really wants to go into recruitment…’ then I stumbled through some hastily chosen words in an attempt to to take the edge off this dreadful answer, only just stopping short of ‘I’ll see myself out’. Somehow, I was hired, and here I am, nine years later. Clearly, I enjoy recruitment, although I most certainly don’t enjoy being interviewed.
I am an introvert. This might be a bit of a surprise, given the job that I do, which involves talking to quite a lot of people. Introverts are all different – for example, I’m quite happy to pick up the phone to someone I don’t know, and I can build relationships with clients successfully, but I hate things like networking events. I don’t excel at starting conversations with strangers, I hate large crowds, and I constantly find myself in situations where I can’t get a word in edge-ways even when I’ve got a lot to add to the conversation. I have had to make my peace with waiting for my turn to speak.
Over the years I’ve learned that lots of people in the IT industry are introverted like me – and for many of them, job interviews can be quite daunting. I’ve searched online for tips on this topic and there are plenty of useful articles out there, however the tips below come from my personal experience of coaching introverted people for interviews throughout my career, and in particular, trying to help them to sell their introversion as a positive characteristic – which I’ve learned that it most definitely can be.
So with that in mind, continue reading to find out my 7 top interview tips for introverts.
1. Go Above And Beyond With Your Interview Preparation
Introverts can’t ‘wing it’ – we don’t swagger into interviews after a cursory glance at the website armed only with a charm offensive. (I’m not saying this is what extroverts do. But, hey, some of them do.) So we need to prepare much better than them.
You know what? Most interviewers can see right through the charm offensive anyway – they’ve seen it all before. Prepare diligently, and go above and beyond. Don’t stop at the company website, read the company’s blog, do a google search on them, look for press articles, and use LinkedIn to find out about the interviewers’ backgrounds. Make notes, and use your research to think of questions you want to ask at the interview.
2. Arrive Early
To avoid putting yourself under any extra pressure, check the journey to the offices if you can, to make sure there are no roadworks or diversions that might make you late. Make sure you know where to park. Much better to spend 20 minutes waiting in your car reading your notes than to arrive in a panic with no time to spare.
3. Small Talk Matters
Before and after the formal part of the interview, you are likely to be in a position where the interviewer, or the receptionist, will make small talk with you. How was your journey? Did you find the offices ok?
In smaller businesses, interviewers will often ask the receptionist what they thought of you so its worth being friendly and chatting to them if you’re waiting. Accept the offer of a drink if you are offered one. There are usually a few industry publications knocking about in receptions – have a quick read, there might be something useful in there that you can ask a question about.
Remark that the offices are nice. Mention the weather. There can be a temptation for introverts to avoid small talk, but this informal ‘getting to know you’ part of the interview is important and should not be neglected.
4. Be An Introvert And Proud
Introverts are naturally good at lots of things. Planning, meeting deadlines, maintaining focus during complex tasks, for example. I’ve got plenty of examples of things like that from my own career that I’d be happy to talk about. What makes them interesting is that they’re things that I’ve excelled at on account of, and not in spite of, the fact that I am an introvert. It’s worth focusing on these characteristics, because inevitably they’re an important part of nearly every job.
5. Bring Evidence Of Your Work
If you can, bring a portfolio of work along with you, and ask the interviewer if you can share it with them. Its much easier to talk openly and confidently when you’ve got the thing you want to talk about in front of you. It also gives you a chance to show how well you have prepared for the meeting, and enables you to show that you have passion and enthusiasm for what you do, which doesn’t always come naturally to introverts.
6. Ask Questions
I’ve touched on this already, but this is one of the most important tips I can give you – it usually takes longer for introverts to come out of their shell and engage with confidence, so it’s so important that you take the opportunity to ask questions. Prolong the time you spend chatting with the interviewer with a focus on insightful questions, and refer to things you’ve read about the company in your preparation. For example, if you’ve identified that they have had a new business win or have won an award – how has this affected the team? How does the business celebrate success?
7. Follow Up
Its fine to follow up with a short email to the interviewer after the meeting – it shows that you are proactive and interested in the opportunity. It will also give them the opportunity to liaise with you if they have any additional questions they don’t feel they covered off in the meeting.
Remember that although introverts might not take the interview in their stride like extroverts sometimes do, we can use the skills we do have to our advantage and build a rapport with the interviewer in a skilful and considered way.
Most importantly, we should never assume that the loudest voice is necessarily the best fit – lots of people are good at interviews, but that doesn’t mean they are the right person for the job. There is often an assumption that the person doing the interviewing must be an extrovert – many are not, and they might not be looking for the loudest voice at all.
So be an introvert and proud! You are who you are, and you shouldn’t apologise for it.