Job interviews are stressful for everyone, but this is especially true if you’re an introvert. Small talk and self-promotion can feel especially uncomfortable, but introverts also have characteristics that give them an edge–that is, if they know how to use them, says Jane Finkle, author of The Introvert’s Complete Career Guide: From Landing a Job to Surviving, Thriving, and Moving on Up.
“It’s a myth that introverts are handicapped when it comes to interviewing,” she says. “Introverts have an advantage in interviews because they are keen observers and listeners. This can work in their favor during an interview.”
Introverts have the ability for deep concentration, and they tend to give more thoughtful answers to questions, says Finkle.
“They are not apt to go way off on a tangent,” she says. “They also listen well to questions and think about them carefully. Their strength is that they’re more concise than extroverts, but they do have a challenge in making sure their answers are complete with enough support.”
Introverts are also good at observation and can pick up what’s going on in the interview. For example, if an interviewer looks at their watch, it can signal that they’re losing interest; an introvert might recognize that it’s time to try to interject something in the conversation that might generate more energy, says Finkle.
Introverts also tend to be diplomatic and are unlikely to insult someone–intentionally or unintentionally. “They’re more sensitive and empathetic,” she says. “If an interviewer is discussing challenges, they might be better at addressing them or providing support.”
Finally, introverts are good at digging deep into research, which can give them an advantage when discussing the potential employer. “They will likely research the employer with a quick Google check,” says Finkle. “They should also check the LinkedIn profile of the person they’re interviewing with. Also, see if they’ve written any articles about the industry or been acknowledged for a project or award.” Knowing this information can provide an advantage during the interview conversation.
How Introverts Should Prepare
While everyone can benefit from preparation, it’s essential if you’re an introvert. “Being prepared will boost confidence, which introverts often need,” says Finkle.
Start by preparing answers to common interview questions. Employers often ask behavioral questions, such as, “Can you tell me about a time you failed at something?”
“Think about two or three problems you faced at work and how you resolved them,” says Finkle. “What did you do that was unique? How did you use your talent and skills? And what did you learn about yourself in terms of making decisions?”
When reflecting on answers to common questions, plan your delivery, suggests Finkle. “We live in a narrative culture,” she says. “It’s important to tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The end is the most important; it reflects the outcome or result of a project.”
Introverts can focus on a specific area of their career, says Finkle. For example, what accomplishment have you done where you made an impact? Did you introduce different innovations to solve a problem?
“This is what an employer is most interested in,” says Finkle. “And be able to use assertive language. For example, ‘I was successful because I did a lot of research on a new trend and introduced it to the team.'”
An introvert’s style tends to be quieter and not as dynamic as an extrovert, says Finkle. “While you don’t need to change who you are, find a way to show some excitement for the field,” she says. “You can do this by asking questions or by describing what it is about the industry that generates excitement for you.”
Practice Makes Perfect
Once they feel prepared, introverts need to practice and rehearse for the interview. This will help you become more comfortable with your answers and actions. It helps to ask a trusted friend or colleague to conduct a mock interview.
“Have the person throw out questions and then provide feedback on content and body language,” she says. “Introverts are often modest and tend to shrink into their chair and don’t maintain good eye contact. They need a witness and observer.”
If a mock interview with a friend isn’t available, videotape yourself and then play it back to observe how well you answer questions and how you hold your body while doing it. Preparation and practice will help an introvert put it all together.
On the day of the interview, build confidence through visualization, says Finkle.
“Close your eyes and visualize walking into the interview, shaking hands, and being able to handle questions with diplomacy and a sense of confidence,” she suggests. “It’s also great to exercise before an interview as it releases endorphins and tends to calm anxiety. We live in a mindfulness culture, so even deep breathing can help.”
The interview is the time to stand up and let employers see who you are. “Recognize that your introversion can be an asset,” says Finkle. “Embrace your nature and let your natural attributes shine.”