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Introvert Interview Fears AND the Antidotes

By Wendy Gelberg

Most people find interviews stressful, but if you're an introvert, interviewing poses special challenges. Let's look at some of the most common fears and how to address them to help you master the interview.

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I get really nervous in interviews.

  1. Interviews can be nerve-wracking because we're so focused on having the right answer and we fear that we're going to mess up.

    Think of the interview as a conversation, rather than an interrogation. A key aspect of the hiring decision is whether you'll fit into the organization. If you remind yourself that you're just having a conversation, you remove some of the performance anxiety.
  2. Remind yourself that you're there to gather information to help you make a decision about whether you are interested in this position. This changes the focus so that you feel less at the mercy of someone else's decision, and thus less fearful.
  3. Embrace your strong listening skills. A strength that introverts bring to the table is their ability to listen. This skill enables you to process information and tailor your answers in response to what you learn. Your well-thought-out and customized answers will set you apart from other candidates.
  4. Develop some questions you'd like the interviewer to answer - these can be about the company, the job, or even the interviewer's experiences and opinions. These will help inform your decision about whether the fit is good for you.
  5. Prepare and practice answers to the most common interview questions - you'll feel more sure of yourself and confident when you hear questions you're prepared for.

I don't like to brag.

  1. Think of your experiences in your job in terms of reporting the facts, not as bragging. You're not expressing an opinion; you're simply describing what happened - what challenges you faced, what actions you (or your team) took, and the outcomes of those actions.
  2. Speak about the things you've been praised for. Again, you're simply reporting what others have said.
  3. Describe the changes in your company and your job from the time you started working there until now. Describe your role in the change - did you initiate it, adapt to it, and so forth. The emphasis is on the facts.
  4. Talk about the aspects of your work that particularly excite you, or any specific times when you were proud of something that you did. Your enthusiasm and energy will be contagious and make a positive impression.
  5. Bring a nicely assembled notebook with work samples, articles, certifications, awards, testimonials, and so forth, to speak on your behalf.

    If asked a question that you can answer with a short "show and tell," gesture to the samples you've brought and ask if you may show them an example of what they've just asked about. Just remember to make eye contact with the interviewer as you showcase the items you've brought.

I get tongue-tied and can't think on my feet.

  1. Recognize that your more deliberate introverted style can be an advantage in an interview. Introverts often lament that they aren't good conversationalists and wish they were more like their extroverted friends and colleagues.

    Here's a surprise - extroverts are so quick to engage conversationally that they often don't wait for the interviewer to complete the question and don't answer what the interviewer wanted to ask. In addition, because they're so comfortable with their conversational skills, they are less likely to prepare and practice their answers and, as a result, provide rambling, unfocused answers.
  2. Preparing your answers ahead of time reduces those moments when you can't think of what you want to say. It also plays to another introverted strength of taking time to think things through.

    If you're surprised by a question, you can buy yourself additional time in the moment by stating something like, "Interesting question. Let me think about that for a moment." By doing that, you're responding to the question (not doing so would create an awkward silence) but also slowing down the process to allow your thoughts to catch up with you.
  3. Bring a professional-looking portfolio with you with a pad of paper in it, and list a few key words or phrases as prompts to help you remember points you want to make. You can subtly glance down to the paper in your lap and get your thoughts on track.
  4. Reframe your definition of success. An interview is an opportunity for you to deliver your core message to an employer, in person.

    Most interviews provide you several opportunities to deliver that message - the "tell me about yourself" question is perfect, as is the "what are your strengths?" question. And the wrap-up at the end is another opportunity to say, "I've enjoyed meeting you. I'm excited about this opportunity and, to recap, believe I offer you ..."
  5. Use a thank you letter to reinforce or restate your message. Not only is it a basic courtesy to send a thank you after all interviews, but it also allows you to provide additional information and even to recover from a stumble. Using the definition above, you can guarantee that you have an opportunity to deliver your message, even if you only get to do so in the thank you letter.

Bottom Line:

It all comes down to preparation. Reduce the unknowns that catch you off guard and increase your stress, and anticipate and practice how you're going to respond in different situations. Using the tips outlined above, you can succeed every time.


About the author...

Wendy Gelberg is a Career Navigator at JVS CareerSolution in Boston and author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career. She is a certified career coach and resume writer whose expertise is in helping people who are uncomfortable "tooting their own horn." Wendy writes resumes, gives workshops, coaches individuals, and writes articles and blogs on all aspects of the job search process. Samples of her resumes and career advice appear in over 20 books. Wendy has been a career coach and resume writer for over 15 years. She has been an introvert her whole life. Contact Wendy at wgelberg@careersolution.org.


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