This has become an area of particular interest in my HR world – Introverts. How and why do they operate the way they do? Coming from a long-line of extroverts, I would consider myself an ambivert. I can toggle between being an extrovert, shining in a room full of strangers, to wanting the reclusive, recharging nature of introverts. I have also started to classify individuals in my life as extroverts, introverts and ambiverts. Being able to classify and understand the way that introverts operate has helped my interpersonal relationships a great deal.
If you haven’t read anything from Susan Cain on the topic of introverts, I HIGHLY recommend doing so. She not only breaks down the characteristics of introverts but also how they shine in everyday situations. She has cracked the DaVinci Code on how introverts think and how, even though they seem quiet, aloof or disinterested, that may not be the case at all. They are simply wired differently than the extroverts in their lives.
This got me thinking: It is imperative that a hiring manager to understand the behavioral traits of introverts in order to not “step-over” quality talent in the interview process. Introverts shine in one-on-one or very small social situations. Group interviews may cause an introvert anxiety due to the nature of feeling ganged-upon or not being able to establish the level of relationship they would intend to with the hiring manager. Introverts use small social situations to establish credibility, a working relationship and an interpersonal bond with the hiring manager. Introverts also like to take a second or two to formulate an acceptable response to your question. They aren’t the type to have a conditioned response like extroverts tend to do. The hiring manager may assume that individual is attempting to come up with whatever answer they can because they don’t know what to say when they aren’t wired to blurt out.
Introverts like to take their time whereas extroverts are quick to hit the ground running. Some roles that one would assume that an introvert wouldn’t be a fit for (i.e. sales) are actually the ones that they are best at. They are adept to building a one-on-one relationship with the client, gaining their trust, and making sure that they are taken care of. Not all introverts need someone to “make the first move” before they can build a relationship – they can do that themselves – they are just better served in smaller settings. Another role an introvert would be a fit for is small call-center team-oriented environments. Such as one supervisor and six or seven team members, enough where they have the ability to listen and contribute as appropriate.
So, what you’re saying is: Introverts can’t interview because hiring managers want to see “enthusiasm” and “quick-thinking” individuals in an interview and introverts can’t compete? NOPE. Not at all. Hiring managers just need to stop looking for everyone being an extrovert and understand an introvert’s hardware.
Introverts can be extroverted and vice-versa, but in the proper situation. It’s also important to notice the tell-tale signs that someone is introverted and tailor the interview experience to get the best response from them. If you notice they take a second or two before answering your questions, you’re probably dealing with an introvert. If you notice they’re uncomfortable with the level of people in the interview, suggest taking a tour during the interview process, giving the introvert the ability to ask questions and establish a relationship in a much smaller setting. I am not a fan of group interviews in general where it’s one person in the “hot seat” and four or five people sitting around firing off questions. That interview experience can be stressful for anyone. If able, 15 or 20 minute speed-interviews can achieve the same result without all of the stress on the candidate. While that can be a bit of a pain, losing a rock star candidate and having to re-open the position in a few months due to not finding your fit may be a bigger pain.