New Brunswick·World of Work

Introverts can overcome obstacles in job searches

A job search can be a daunting task for any of us but when you are an introvert it may be doubly so.

Many employers have figured out ways to make introverted candidates more at ease in interviews

A job search can be a daunting task for any of us but when you are an introvert it may be doubly so.

We immediately think of interviews, the art of small talk while networking and making direct approaches or cold calls to employers. But there may be even more stacked against the introvert.

First some clarity on introversion in relation to shyness. They are not the same. Introversion simply means that roughly half of us derive our energy from quiet alone time and prefer an intimate conversation with a few friends over a boisterous party with many gregarious people. Extroverts derive their energy largely from others.

Obstacles for introverts

So the obstacles introverts face in job search and in everyday life in the workplace is not at all a function of being anti-social, it is a function of being a different type of social. In many ways the one-on-one job interview suits an introvert very well, though the no-holds-barred brain-storming meeting is a guaranteed way to shut down those who struggle in such situations.

Employers, like society in general, do not readily favour the type of environments that bring out the best in both introverts and extroverts. Employers can be accused of an inclination toward job seekers who are easy to interview, get to know, speak easily and freely and engage with strangers effortlessly.  And if those traits are directly job related then so be it.

The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness.- Susan Cain, author
Award-winning author Susan Cain is best known for her bestselling book 'Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can’t Stop Talking' which has been translated into over 30 languages. (Aaron Fedor)
However, many jobs do not require such a disposition and regrettably many introverts risk being passed over because of their interview performance. As noted Susan Cain author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking says so eloquently "The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and happiness."

Interestingly, there is no correlation between extroverted interview performance and job performance unless, as already stated, such traits are specific job requirements. And there are a host of jobs for which this is simply not the case.

Many employers get it

Many employers have figured this out. A number of employers routinely provide clear job previews well in advance of the selection process to allow candidates the time to process and prepare. They give assignments to be done in anticipation of the interview or use testing and most critically base the selection process on past performance and behaviour not just how nimble people are in an interview.

Most importantly, providing interview questions in advance to level the playing field really allows employers to enhance the validity and reliability of the interview, a highly biased and fallible selection tool to begin with. Questions in advance enables richer conversations with all candidates and really allows employers to see the all candidates in their best light in order to attempt to correlate selection process performance with job performance.

If you would rather spend the evening with a good book than in a loud pub here are a few job search tips:

  • Build your networking one by one through online referrals in conjunction with the obligatory meet and greet events.
  • When doing receptions and events (it does need to be a part of the search strategy) arrive early, go slow, seek out others who appear uncomfortable and come armed with questions to facilitate small talk, as opposed to thinking you have to talk about yourself.
  • Ask for interview questions in advance or at the very least ask for the layout or agenda of the interview well in advance, ideally when you are convened. If they don't provide questions, find out as much about the role as possible and build the interview you think you might get and write out and rehearse both questions and the answers. Use a buddy to rehearse.

The question for employers is a simple one. What are you doing in your hiring process to ensure you see the best the market has to offer not just those who make it easy for you by virtue of their outgoing nature? Once hired, what are you doing as a manager or supervisor to ensure you are hearing all the voices and not just those who make themselves heard quickly and easily?

Great ideas are not the exclusive domain of extroverts and just telling introverts to speak up says you really don't get it.


Pierre Battah

Human resource management consultant

Pierre Battah is Information Morning's Workplace Specialist. Battah & Associates is a management consulting firm specializing in Human Resource Management.


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