Are job interviews biased against introverts?

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I recently did an interview for a job I could easily have got, but didn’t. The feedback given was that, all other things being equal between us, the successful candidate was more convincing, basically because they performed better in the interview. Now, I’m not about to complain I didn’t get the job because I’m an introvert – I know what went wrong and I’m not trying to make excuses for not performing at my best on the day. However, the experience did make me question whether interviews are inherently skewed towards extroverts.

If following recruitment protocols, interviewers can only base their judgements on what a candidate gives of him/herself during their brief, intense meeting at the interview. And, all other things being equal, interviewers will always tend to choose the candidate that puts on the best performance, the one that appears to be the most enthusiastic, most animated, most confident – most extroverted. Even introvert interviewers will probably do this, because these are the characteristics valued by our extrovert-oriented western culture and unfortunately are deeply ingrained in all of us.

This puts introverts at a big disadvantage. Generally we have more difficulty in bigging ourselves up, thinking on our feet and expressing externally our internal knowledge and insights, particularly under pressure. A nerve-wracking job interview will also deplete our energy reserves very quickly – before and during – all of which can make us come across as rather unforthcoming and flat.

That said, a well-prepared introvert is perfectly capable of overcoming this and pulling out a great performance, particularly if they feel passionately about the job – who knows, the successful candidate in my job interview may have been one of them! And of course extroverts too have to perform well in order to stand out from the crowd.

However, on the whole, the requirement for an ‘extroverted’ performance is a much bigger ask for introverts than extroverts. For introverts, it’s like having to start the engine from cold, rev it up into top gear straightaway and then keep your foot down on the accelerator, without either stalling or overheating on the way. For extroverts, the engine is already powering along – they simply have to move up to the next gear.

As such, introverts will most likely have to work doubly hard to achieve the same outcome, both in terms of preparation of the subject matter and ensuring our energy is elevated to a much higher level than we are probably used to.

Given the importance of interviews in the recruitment process, I do think employers have a responsibility to ensure that all interviewers have an accurate understanding of the differences between introverts and extroverts and an awareness that they are programmed to choose the most extroverted candidate (all other things being equal), even though this actually provides no additional proof of the person’s suitability for the role.

And anyone responsible for training, coaching or advising on interview techniques needs to get the word out there to introverts – i.e. we must take the performance aspect of an interview just as seriously as the subject matter, and that, ultimately, our success or failure may hinge on how well we are able to project our energy to the right pitch for the right length of time.

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2 Comments

  1. Last week I read about a local company that interviews all of their applicants in a group with the hiring manager and HR. This could be a disaster for some introverts. The best advice I can give is to join Toastmasters International because TM provides opportunities to learn how to speak confidently “on the spur of the moment”. This is an invaluable leadership skill and necessary if we are to shine during job interviews or networking events. There are TM groups in every community. Each club is unique so look for one that meets your needs. Cheers!

    • Thanks for this Lesley – that is worrying indeed! Strangely enough I have just joined my local Toastmasters and would wholeheartedly agree that it is an invaluable resource, particularly for introverts.

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