Assessing an Introvert Job Candidate

I’ve spent a good amount of my personal time this year developing a better understanding of introverts.  You see, I am an extrovert, but have a teenage son who is a classic introvert and I was struggling to know if he was OK when I thought he was lonely or too in his own head.  He didn’t suddenly become an introvert at 13; he’s always been who he is – it’s just that my expectations on what teenagers are like was skewed to my own teenage experience.  I was the girl for whom they invented the call waiting feature in the 80’s.  A phone’s busy signal could have been the beat of my theme song back then.  I know that teens text in the 21st century and don’t actually talk, but you get the idea.

In my research, I came across a wonderful resource called the Quiet Revolution (http://www.quietrev.com/) and I have come to a better understanding of my son’s introversion.  Since HR is my career, I’ve started to think about how introverts move from quiet kids to quiet employees and even before that, quiet job candidates.  I’ve worked for really strong leaders, who consider themselves introverts, but how do introverts take that first step (and subsequent steps) in their career by actually going on an interview?  By definition, the attention and questioning inherent in a job interview are the things that many introverts enjoy least.  There are articles to help introvert candidates prepare for interviews (see link above), but how do we as recruiters and hiring managers make sure to read introverts the right way and get a true understanding of their ability to contribute to our organizations?

  1. We need to stop relying so heavily on first impressions. While I am a big proponent of trusting my gut instincts, I have really tried to go beyond my initial impression and work towards a better understanding of each candidate and what motivates him/her.
  2. I ask open-ended questions that help me get a better understanding of a candidate’s style and their drivers. I like to ask why a candidate moved from one position to the next because that tells me a lot about their goals.  I almost always ask, “Besides paying the mortgage, what gets you up on a Monday morning?  What are you excited about?”
  3. Lastly, and this is a big one for an extrovert like me, I have gotten more comfortable with silence. This has been pivotal in my own personal development and I find that it’s also helped me to understand and forge better relationships with introverts.   I let people take a moment or two to think about their answer to a question rather than jumping all over them with my own need to fill the silence.

My son asked me a few months ago if I thought more people are extroverts or introverts.  I told him that I think we all have shades of each in our personalities and that it’s more a continuum than a designation.  Let’s all get better at understanding this so we don’t overlook great candidates who may just not be natural interviewers.

 

Jennifer Klotz is the SVP, Human Resources for C2G Partners.