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The Introvert’s Guide to Interviewing

As not only an introvert, but also a shy introvert, I have always found social situations to be incredibly difficult. When you add the stress that anyone might feel over an important interview, nerves and anxiety can be overwhelming. But with proper preparation, practice, and patience any introvert can interview like the best of them.

In many ways, interviewing isn’t that different from networking. Some of the same things you do to prepare for a networking event can also be used to prepare for an interview – specifically, researching and getting ready. Minimize stress on the day of the interview so that you feel more relaxed. By setting out your clothing the day before, preparing your portfolio (extra copies of your resume, business cards, blank paper, pens), and doing a test drive to the interview location, you’ll be confident and relaxed about getting to the interview on time, fully prepared.

Once at the interview, there are two important pieces of body language to use: the handshake and eye contact. A good handshake conveys confidence and starts the interview with a strong first impression. Practice shaking hands with friends and ask for feedback. Try softening or strengthening your grip depending on the signals you get from the other person in the first instant of the handshake.

Eye contact is another quick way to convey sincerity and confidence. While eye contact is important, it’s also possible to go overboard. Too much eye contact may be threatening and unnerving. Practice conversation including eye contact with an extroverted friend. Ask your friend to pay vivid attention to your level of eye contact and tell you if you’re using too much, not enough, or just the right amount.

Now you’re in the door, the next challenge is small talk before and after the interview. This is a great time to be an active listener. Use relaxed body language to look comfortable, even if you’re not. Make eye contact, nod your head at the right time, respond with small comments, and let the other person carry the majority of the conversation. If there is a lull in the conversation, asking about your interviewer’s background is usually a safe area of small conversation. This question bridges easily into the interview itself and helps you avoid freezing up and going awkwardly silent.

Finally, know your accomplishments. There are two good reasons for listing out your accomplishments. One is so you can practice and get comfortable sharing them in an interview. But more importantly, writing and recalling your achievements acts as a personal pep talk. Use the things you’ve already done to make yourself more confident about what you’re about to do.

With these tips, as well as the more traditional tips for interviewing that apply to both introverts and extraverts, you should be ready to interview like a champ. Go get ‘em, tiger!

5 Comments

  1. pat
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    There’s nothing at all introvert-specific here. The first sentence gave it away: this should be titled “The Shy Person’s Guide to Interviewing”.

  2. Posted January 25, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for pointing this out. I’m curious how you would define “being introveted” vs. “being shy.”

    -Mei

  3. Teresa
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your post. I came across your site after searching for interviewing techniques for introverts. I consider myself an introvert, but have no problem with hand shakes, eye contact or small talk. Actually, I am pretty good at all of these. As the previous commenter noted, I’m also not shy. As an introvert, my biggest challenge, which you did not address, is that I tend to require more time than some in preparing my thoughts before I speak. I find this to be a key identifier of introverts (versus just being shy). As a “thinker,” I have to really think through what I say. Unfortunately, this may lead to a 5-15 second delay when answering a new question, which is NOT ideal for an interview. Any suggestions for that aspect of being an introvert?

  4. Posted January 28, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Teresa,

    Thanks for making the distinction between “shy” and “introverted” clear.

    In the scenario where there might be a delay before you feel ready to answer an interviewer’s question, there are a couple of ways to avoid uncomfortable silence while you compose your answer:

    1. Repeating or rephrasing the question while thinking of the answer

    2. Say something like “I need a moment to recall the detail to provide you with an accurate answer.”

    Hope this helps.

    Thanks for your comment.

    -Mei

  5. Posted May 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I can very much relate to how you feel. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s small talk. Very nice tips by the way. Thanks for this wonderful article!

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