It was a genuine honor to be interviewed for a January 22nd Financial Times article on hiring introverts. It’s important to add that I feel compelled to say, as an advocate for introverts, the title itself was disappointing: “Introverts Pose a Problem for Hirers.” I say this because it feels we introverts are so often misunderstood and misjudged by many.
Introverts, who represent 25-49% of the population depending on the study, represent a tremendous opportunity for hiring managers! Some of what I stated in the article, have said here on my blog and wrote in my Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership eBook:
Introverts get their energy from their inner world of ideas, images, and thoughts, and from creating deep connections with people… As a result, they are exceptional at creating and communicating visions for their company and teams and strategies that align with those visions. They can and do thrive in virtually any role but in a different way and with different strategies…they can also make excellent leaders: They create strong connections built on foundations of trust that inspire and motivate people to act.
Moreover, some studies have shown a correlation between being introverted and being gifted.
Thus, I believe it’s misleading to say, “introverts pose a problem for hirers.” Instead, I believe leading-edge, savvy hiring managers understand that introverts experience a traditional interviewing process differently from extroverts, simply because of how we get our energy. The process of meeting a number of people in a short amount of time will be energizing for extroverts and draining for introverts. It’s solely because of how we are innately wired.
I also believe knowledgeable leaders and talent management executives understand that there has been a misleading and naive implication by many in the past that introversion equals shyness or even poor social skills, which are some of the myths about introversion I have previously written about. Most introverts I have the pleasure of knowing and working with are not shy, have exceptional social skills, and are quite confident. I agree with Mr. Riccoboni who talks in the article about how the misconception can occur: from introverts taking time to respond to questions and inexperienced recruiters misjudging this as a lack of confidence.
Additionally the article implies at the beginning that people who are “assertive, go-getting, and able to seize the day” are extroverts. Yet, introverts can be magnificently assertive, go-getting and can rise to any challenge – they will just do this differently than an extrovert will! They might make a bold and ground-breaking proposal to a CEO, but do it in a one-on-one meeting where they’re in their comfort zone. Or start an important corporate initiative with only one or two other stakeholders.
So, do introverts have a responsibility to rise to the occasion when going through an interview process? Absolutely. They must:
- Take to heart that the keys to a great interview are confidence, a deep belief in oneself and in your self-worth, and
preparation. These are attributes every one of us has the ability to cultivate, regardless of whether we are an introvert or extrovert.
- Acknowledge that their reflective, thoughtful, insightful approach to questions is highly valued in organizations. Know this, be confident about it, and don’t apologize for it during the process…it’s not a weakness!
- Recognize that interviews are draining and make the most of any opportunity to recharge during the process (say yes to bathroom breaks, a glass of water, any chance to breathe and re-center yourself). Just as importantly, recognize that this draining process does take you out of your comfort zone (often meeting a lot of new people at once). An inner commitment to keep your physical energy high is critical. Consider incentivizing yourself with a relaxing reward when the process is complete each day.
- Clearly share the thoughts, images and visions that are beautifully cohesive inside their heads with the interviewer. This requires a lot of focus, eye contact, and paying attention to body language to make sure the interviewer is understanding all the brilliance they are sharing.
- Toot their own horn. While not natural for introverts, I do give strategies on this in the Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership.
In doing all these things, introverts make it easier for smart, savvy interviewers to recognize the depth and breadth of their accomplishments, talents, and the immense value they will bring to the organization.
On the whole, the Financial Times Article is excellent and does bring to light the difference in how introverts and extroverts often appear “at first blush,” and how they approach their work differently. Yet, I don’t think it’s fair to say they pose a problem for hirers. Am I wrong? What do you think? I would love to hear from you!
Photo by One Way Stock on Flickr.