A very important part of interview preparation is to be mentally ready. Confidence seems to be a big part of that. However, many of my coaching clients find it especially difficult to deal with a stranger – interviewer, given their introvert nature.
Here I’m sharing a few tips for interview preparation that introverts should have.
How Did I Grow to Embrace Introversion
I used to think “introvert” is a bad word, growing up being compared to the bubbly bright next door girl. I tried many ways to change it and here are what happened:
- had my cheek-burnt brain-blank moments at Toastmasters competitions
- pulled up a big fight to get into a sales role
- cried in empty office after being scolded by a client I cold-called
- legs trembled under the table in a board room presentation
- extremely anxious before speaking at writers conference with some of the renown authors
- I write in Chinese and have no confidence in giving a literature talk in English
None of these worked. I’m still an introvert.
BUT. By doing all these, I learned how to appreciate, work with and tap on the strengths of introversion.
I learned that:
- Shyness can be managed.
- Communication skills can be improved.
- Introversion needs NOT be cured.
Now, I have started my first YouTube channel, a bold move considering I have scopophobia – freezing at camera.
Why We Believed “Introversion is Bad”
What we have experienced could have formed a view inside ourselves, that Introversion is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Our parents apologize on our behalf, and make effort to make us “more outgoing”, all these make us think that our fluent-speaking, sociable and ever-cheerful peers are the ideals.
And we are the ones who have some kind of disease called “being an introvert”. The symptom of this “disease” is that we don’t want to talk as much, we don’t enjoy social occasions a lot, and we secretly think we are (being judged to be) dumb and slow.
We Are Our Worst Critics
The worst part is not that others think this way, but that we internalize this criticism and use that to judge ourselves.
I want to recommend the book “Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking”, by Susan Cain.
I have gifted it to someone, but it has been “with me” and I recommended it at least twenty times in the last 1 year to my clients. In this book, Susan acknowledged exactly that society bias I talked about just now. The bias that the extraverts are smarter and more charming, and more competent as a result.
People don’t come to us to tell us, “you are not talking much, I think you are stupid”. In fact it’s ourselves sitting there saying, “You are not talking much, I think you are stupid”.
This internalizing of belief that “Introverts = Stupid” makes us suffer in the midst of any conversation, because we don’t feel like ourselves any more.
Then there are two behaviors possible: some of us start talking too much, to show that we are competent and that we can talk a lot. But that is usually a very bad move at interviews, because it can make us miss important questions and make us not a good listener. The other type of a common behavior is that we talk even less, because we are focusing our energy asking ourselves, “Am I stupid Am I stupid, I must be stupid”.
Know That Introversion Is NOT A Disease
The single most important quote from the book is, “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”
It was such a mind-blowing statement for me, because all my life till then I thought being introvert, being not so sociable, was a big problem of me, despite that I was doing reasonably well at school and at work. I always thought it was something to be cured.
But Susan is saying, NO, it’s not. She introduced the difference between “Shyness” and “Introversion”.
Shyness, by definition, is fear of social disapproval and humiliation. Introversion, is a preference. There is no precise definition of introversion and if you do a personality test, you will get a % as result, which means you will end up somewhere in between extreme introversion and extraversion.
This is why introversion is a relative term, a preference. Even if an introvert has strong social skills, he may still prefer certain things, such as, prefers to listen than to talk, prefer to think before they talk, prefer to express in writing than to talk, they may prefer to stay quiet in conflict than talk, or prefer a deep conversation than small talk…
So you see, generally, they prefer some better alternatives than just talking.
Key Understandings for Self Acceptance
To improve confidence at interviews, self acceptance is an important milestone to achieve. A few understandings need to be in place for that to happen:
Facts #1 half of the world population are introverts.
Facts #2 a long list of successful people are introverts, including Bill gates, Mark Zuckberg, and Mahatma Ghandi and many other successful people who we thought need to go out there and influence.
Facts #3 “Introversion is Bad” is a Social Bias The Society Wants to Remove
The best leaders today are also becoming more aware about society bias and HR practices making quieter people in the group to speak up. People are learning that either themselves or other extraverts in their team need to sit down sometimes, so that the introverts can stand up, because their views are equally important.
Facts #4 The extraverts are not leading a perfect life.
There is a cost for extraverts to talk a lot: the cost of energy being constantly in motion, the cost of not being able to pause and think, the cost of having to behave like someone who knows it all. In the full spectrum, people on the end of introverts might be suffering, and people on the other end of extraversion are not in the perfect situation either. They also need to learn to scale back, to get the full benefit of pausing and thinking, and giving others the opportunity to talk. So there are a lot of work they need to do as well.
No one is perfect.
How to Be More Confident At Interviews
And once we have all these understanding, you will start to know that if you sit in the interview and you are quieter, that is really not a problem – could be who you are, or could be because you are a very good listener. You should give yourself that credit for listening very well to what the other person is trying to tell you, which is often very important at interviews as well.
But if you say, okie, I know it’s not my fault to be introverts, other people do realize this, and the extraverts also struggle in some aspect, but I am still nervous at interviews, then what?
Well, there are many other contributing factors for the confidence issues, though being too self-conscious about introversion could be a major one.
Another method of getting more confidence is to take stock of your career capital. It will give you more respect to your skills and knowledge.
A Few More Suggestions on Interview Preparation
Tip 1: Do deliberate practice for interview
Being very prepared definitely helps, improving language skills is also very important if it is your bottleneck. And since language skills need time to improve, while you might have an interview tomorrow, deliberate practice only for interviews helps.
Tip 2: Foster a deeper conversation
Another tip that might work for some of you, if you feel you do way better in a deep conversation, you should try to foster a connection with your interviewer during the interview. Once you do that, you will be in the zone, in the flow and best position to bring out the best of you to the interviewer and the rest will become super natural.
I hope the article can help you to feel better about your introverted self, and perform better at interviews.