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Jo Allden

Kenexa

Senior Assessment Consultant

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How to effectively interview introverts

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Some hiring managers may see interviews as an opportunity to test candidates’ ability to “think on their feet” and demonstrate their expertise, whereas others simply see interviews as an opportunity to interact with candidates to determine if their personalities are a fit for the Organisation. In both of these situations, applicants who are able to “sell themselves” with fast, witty responses to questions and a solid sales pitch may shine the brightest. A typical interview more often than not inherently favors extroverts. So what? Well, the very nature of introversion, and the interview itself, may make it hard for some introverts to interview well; as such you could miss out on hiring the best candidate for the job all because they are not as socially fluent as an extrovert.

Recent studies show that almost a third of all people have at least some introverted tendencies, but what does the term introvert mean exactly?  There are many definitions but essentially it’s about where people get their energy from and what it takes out of them. Introverts are people who gain energy from solitude and quiet, and who can feel drained of energy by interaction- you can start to see how the interview would not be an ideal situation for an introvert.  Here’s what you need to know about interviewing them:

  1. They dislike small talk: You might get your first clue that a candidate is an introvert as you walk them from reception to the interview room. Introverts don’t like to talk unless they have something to say.  While small talk in interviews is designed to put a candidate at ease it can actually make the introverted candidate feel uncomfortable. Don’t think they’re being rude they just won’t see the relevance.
  2. They may undersell themselves: Introverts tend to dislike bravado and therefore often sell themself short in the interview.  As such they may not seek to tell you everything you want to hear, but don’t mistake the candidate’s lack of in-your-face excitement about him- or herself as a lack of enthusiasm about the job.
  3. They may take longer to answer questions: An introverted candidate will reflect on questions and take time to gather their thoughts before speaking. This may result in the introvert being slower to respond to questions and appearing less confident than the extrovert candidate who will tend to respond more quickly. If you ask them a question and it really demands some thinking, then allow the introvert the time to process it.
  4. They can be direct: Introverts will be incredibly direct in their answers to you. They’ll tell you exactly what you want to know without the added fluff.

It’s up to the interviewer to make sure that their interview isn’t biased towards extroverts, but that it has the flexibility to evaluate whether or not any candidate, including introverts, are the best candidate for the role. So how can you ensure you develop an interview that increases the chances of introverted, well actually all, candidates showing their true capabilities and in order to give an authentic demonstration of their ability? Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

  1. Focus on the right questions. The interview process should always be centred on hiring candidates who are an excellent fit for the role and organisation. Failing to define what knowledge, experience, behaviours etc you’re seeking, makes it impossible to come up with appropriate questions.
  2. Standardise the process. A consistent and structured interview is critical. This allows all candidates the same opportunity to demonstrate their capability against the role and organisational requirements and adds confidence to the selection decision that the right candidate is being selected. Ignoring a structured interview process and hiring on a ‘gut’ feeling can be a mistake.
  3. Give advance warning to candidates. Preparation is key to minimizing the unknowns that can cause stress in an interview situation. Send out information to candidates about the interview so they can plan ahead and put their best foot forward; the idea is to give candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities not to catch them out on the day.
  4. Ask lots of questions. Too often, interviewers ask a question and then move right on to the next topic. But good hiring managers should be prepared to pry for more information — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Introverts will tell you exactly what you want to know without the added fluff. If you want elaboration, you need to be direct and ask for it.
  5. Don’t talk too much. Inept interviews will often ‘jump in’ to fill the silence or go on and on about the company, their own background … and at the end of the interview, what do you really know about the job candidate. Allow introverts the time to think and answer.
  6. Don’t be quick to judge. Listen (I mean actively listen) and take notes during the interview rather than making assumptions. Review the notes afterwards and let the evidence speak for itself against the key criteria you’re looking for. Whether someone is an extrovert or an introvert, it’s important to recognize the strongest candidates against the job requirements.

Conclusions

In a nutshell, you can’t judge a candidate by their loudness or silence. The main thing is that you hire competent people who are likely to do well in the job and stay– You need to ask the right questions, based on the role, and base hiring decisions on evidence not on your own stereotype/prejudices. Whether you expect everyone to be talkative or you really dislike overly talkative people, both will interview well because you’ve already made your mind up.

One Response

  1. In fact, it is very difficult
    In fact, it is very difficult from the point of view of the interviewer to establish communication with such people and get good material. But I will add that such a separation of psychotypes is quite outdated and generalized

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Jo Allden

Senior Assessment Consultant

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