How Introverts Can Thrive a Job Search (That's Designed for Extroverts)

As a speaker and consultant who spends much of her time interacting with large crowds and meeting new people, it surprises most people when they find out I’m an introvert.

This term has long been associated with unflattering and maligned traits: shyness, awkwardness, indifference. And when you think about job hunting—full of phone calls, conversations, long days in unfamiliar spaces, and new faces—it seems like a situation that automatically puts introverts at a disadvantage.

But here’s the secret: Introversion is by no means a negative trait in the workplace. Introversion—and extroversion, its counterpart—have little to do with liking or disliking people. It’s all about where you get your energy from. High-intensity situations feed the soul and energy reserves of extroverts, while it drains them for introverts.

Luckily, I have a few tricks to share that will help you present yourself authentically and protect your energy at the same time.

1. Craft Thoughtful, Deliberate Materials

The introverted brain thrives on the opportunity to dive deep into a topic, spending long stretches of time dedicated to a task. Take advantage of opportunities like writing cover letters or creating portfolios to do just that by crafting well-thought-out, highly-edited materials that illustrate your skills and abilities. This way, you can shine before you even walk into an interview.

Quick Tip

Including a story in your cover letter can break you out of the common habit of simply restating your resume and bring your accomplishments to life. Find a few stories where you excelled at work that you’re comfortable talking about, and challenge yourself to brag a little bit.

2. Balance Comfort and Poise in Phone Interviews

Phone interviews are a double-edged sword, no matter who’s participating. They can be easier than in-person ones, because they allow for notes and prompts in a way that face-to-face interviews don’t. However, conversational cues can be difficult to read if you can’t see who’s talking.

Capitalize on your “home court advantage” by keeping things in your room that will help you feel comfortable, like a familiar mug of water or tea, or a favorite journal where you can take notes. But, don’t get too comfortable—you should dress like you would for a regular interview. This tricks your mind into acting as you would in a more professional space.

Quick Tip

If there are multiple people on the call, get each person’s name at the start of the interview. Then, when composing thank you notes, be sure to thank each person individually. These notes present an opportunity to show your engagement in the conversation.

3. Get Details in Advance

Surprises or unanticipated shifts present a shock to the introvert’s system, and they can be difficult to recover from. While they can’t be avoided entirely, they can be managed by requesting a schedule of the interview day.

Quick Tip

Where you can, coordinate your plans for the day to capitalize on “recharge points.” If an interview will start early in the day, wake up half an hour earlier and savor the downtime. If the day seems to be long, eat a real breakfast and pack some extra toiletries, so you walk into the interview energized and prepared instead of hurried and drained.

4. Create a “Quick Charge” Strategy

Even if you have a handle on the schedule and come to the interview fully charged, your energy may lag over the course of the day. I advise folks to create quick-charge moments for themselves to combat this.

Think of it like charging your phone in airplane mode for a few minutes. In the event that you’re asked if you’d like a break, take it. At the end of interview segments, ask if you can have a few moments to collect yourself before the next step. And, if no other opportunity presents itself, take a few extra minutes when using the restroom. Creating these small moments will help you be as consistent as possible over the course of the day, even if you’re thrown by a question or if something unexpected comes up that interrupts your focus.

Quick Tip

If you find yourself stumped by a question, or need more time to answer, don’t feel afraid to take a deep breath or two and ask for more time. Practicing what phrase you’ll use (“Let me take a moment to think about that” or “May I think about that question and come back to it shortly?”) will lower the nervous energy it takes to even ask. And remember: The pause will always feel longer to you than it does to anyone else.

5. Ask Questions About the Work Environment

I often get asked if there are any jobs that are “bad for introverts.” My answer: No. No individual skill set, ability, or talent is exclusive to any temperament.

However, there are work situations that might prove challenging from person to person. Some things you may want to ask as you’re assessing the fit of a workplace include:

  • What sort of workspace will I be working in?
  • How consistent is the routine of the office/the work?
  • How are decisions typically made within the team (at meetings, through emails/other communications, independently)?
  • What’s the nature of the meeting culture here?
  • How is feedback typically communicated?

These questions can be supplemented with your own, based on your own individual deal-breakers around workspace, schedule, pacing, and culture.

Quick Tip

Where you can, include information about the particular quirks of your introversion. Do you need opportunities to be able to communicate in writing? Share that where you can. Need time to think before making decisions? Say so if possible. The job hunt is a two-way street; just as you’d want a company to be upfront with you about how they work, you should be honest, too.

If you capitalize on these five key components, there’s no reason introverts can’t thrive in the job search.

This article was originally published on The Well, Jopwell’s digital magazine. It has been republished here with permission.

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About Richard Moy

Richard Moy
Richard Moy is a Content Marketing Writer at Stack Overflow. He has spent the majority of his career in talent management, including a stint as a full-cycle recruiter and hiring manager. In addition to the career advice he contributes to The Muse, he also writes test prep and higher education marketing content for The Economist. Say hi on Twitter @rich_moy.

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