Job Hunting Tips For Introverts
By Justin Sablich
It’s not always easy to admit one's introverversion. We do live in a world that values extroversion, which is clear when you look at the job-hunting process.
Advice-seeking introverts are told to speak confidently about one’s strengths during a job interview and to charm your future colleagues with scintillating small talk. This is easier said than done for introverts, who are inherently uncomfortable with being the center of attention, and who would rather have a tooth pulled than be forced to small talk with strangers. (Though the Guild has offered workshops to help with this, and will be offering more public speaking workshops.)
“Introverts process the world by thinking through and reflecting upon our initial impressions and perceptions. Therefore, we require a bit of time to properly respond to new data and requests,” writes Devora Zack in her book Networking for People Who Hate Networking. This is why job interviews are even more painful for those who are less extroverted.
As someone who identifies as an introvert (who, for some reason, chose a career in journalism), I know this to be true, having just completed my own job hunt. I learned a lot after not having to seek employment since college and since coming to terms with my introverted nature. So, I have some tips to share for those introverts who may be navigating a career change, whether internally or somewhere new.
Apply for work you are passionate about
It turns out that some introverts are really good public speakers and have no problems speaking clearly and confidently during job interviews. That’s often because what the person is speaking about is of great personal interest — something that generates authentic excitement and passion.
In psychology, this is called the Free Trait Theory. As Susan Cain describes it in her best-selling book on introverts, Quiet: “Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.”
For me, the job I ended up landing was one I was truly intrigued by and for which I felt qualified. So, during the interview process, I was able to talk about my ideas with a sense of authority. My excitement even drove me to prepare fresh work examples based on some ideas I had for the role, rather than only presenting older work samples.
Spread out your interviews
If you’re an introvert, you know that intense social situations, like a party where you know few people, are incredibly draining experiences. Job interviews have a similar effect.
“It’s not that introverts don’t enjoy being around people — we do — but the more time we spend interacting with others, the less energy we have,” writes The Muse’s Aja Frost.
For this reason alone, you should avoid scheduling too many interviews in one week if you can help it, or at the very least avoid back-to-back days. Also regarding your calendar, Frost writes that it helps to build in some alone time before and after the interview.
“Think of it like plugging in your phone. Being alone before the interview will give you energy, while being alone afterward will allow you to recharge,” writes Frost.
Prepare more than you think you should
Everyone should understand the importance of entering a job interview feeling well-prepared, but this is particularly important for introverts, who tend to struggle in conversations that put them on the spot. This is why introverts are much more comfortable writing emails than speaking during meetings.
“If you are an introvert, or if self-promotion doesn’t come naturally to you, it might be particularly hard to answer questions about personal strengths and achievements on the fly. It’s best to go into a job interview with an idea of the points you want to emphasize. Take time to reflect on prior experiences and write out a list of projects you excelled at, technical abilities you acquired, and soft skills you possess,” writes Kat Cohen, the founder and CEO of IvyWise, on QZ.com.
I found that when I wrote out detailed responses to expected interview questions during my preparation, I had a much easier time giving good answers when the pressure was on. This is not about rehearsing and memorizing lines, which will not come across well. It’s about being able to more easily recall the main points of what you want to communicate to the interviewer.
Network with friends
More often than not networking is torture for introverts. But there’s no way around its importance when job hunting. You’re more likely to land interviews when you make personal connections with those at a desired company who might be able to help your application stand out. Industry events like workshops and conferences are intimidating when going alone, which is why you should attend with people you are comfortable, whether its a close friend or just someone you get along with well at the office.
“An ally can transform the experience. Make plans to attend with a networking-adverse colleague,” writes Zack. “Take turns venturing out and reporting back while giving each other mini networking ‘assignments.’ A shared positive attitude and sense of humor will attract others to you both.”
Lucky for me, my wife is also in journalism, so we often attend the same events. Just her presence made me feel more at ease talking with other media folks and make more connections than I would had I been solo.
You can also network effectively from the comfort of your own computer. Since introverts prefer writing over speaking, reaching out to people via email (if you can find it) or LinkedIn is a good option. I was pleasantly surprised by the willingness of people I had no other connection with to help me with job leads.
But to get the most out of this process, you’re going to have to force yourself to go have that coffee with your new contact. You’ll find it easier than you think because you will have already established some sort of relationship with the person — thanks to your written correspondence.
Justin Sablich is the digital editor of Springwise and a freelance writer. He spent 10 years as a guild member while being a digital editor for The New York Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @JustinSablich.
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