In the world of job hunting, probably one of the most important things you can do is nail an interview. Pull off a tumbling somersault into the room (without scaring anyone, please) leading into a dynamic conversation between you and your potential employer followed by a layout to nail the landing on the requisite blue mat and leave the interviewer applauding. Ta-da! Now that’s what I’m talking about. (Yeah, gymnastics holdovers from childhood. I will not apologize.) But being serious, there are so many different types of people, both the interviewer and the interviewee alike, with so many different comfort-levels when it comes to interactions with other people. How is it possible to nail that interview every time?
Let’s consider the whole extrovert/introvert thing.
Extroverts tend to get their energy by being around other people and tend to get bored when they are alone. Being around other people gives extroverts a charge – or, recharge. For example, an extrovert may feel “high on life” after spending an afternoon in the company of multiple friends, whereas this type of activity may simply drain an introvert of their energy.
Introverts tend to get their energy when they are alone. Being alone, focused on a single activity, gives introverts a charge – or, recharge. For example, an introvert may feel amazingly recharged after spending a rainy afternoon tucked into a chair by a fire, cup of coffee by my side, a good book…maybe a cat purring on my lap. Oh, wait – I just lapsed into the first person. You caught me.
But there are also ambiverts; people who tend to fall kind of in the middle of extraversion and introversion. Sometimes they’re comfortable with groups and social interactions and sometimes they’re not; sometimes groups and social interactions give them the willies.
Actually, I, myself, probably fall into the ambivert category. I tend to avoid crowds or places that have multiple bodies in a confined or specified space (e.g.: concerts, festivals, carnivals, auditorium/theater events, parties, just to name a few). I enjoy time with a small crowd of close, trusted friends, however (e.g.: work gatherings, church events, family gatherings, outings with The Girls, just to name a few). I described a dream date with myself just a minute ago: coffee, book, fire, and cat. All those things that require one thing: being alone.
I’m sure there’s science involved here. Some tangible data that explains why some folks are one way or another. I’ll leave the actual science-y stuff to my learned colleague, Tananda. She’ll set this all straight in a way that even I can understand it. I’ll stick with what I know: people.
Think about it this way. You have spent a lot of time and effort on your resume. You’ve spent more time and effort searching for and applying to various available jobs. You’ve submitted an application, included your resume, and written an awesome cover letter. You’re hopeful. Any day now. Then, lucky you, someone calls to talk to you about a job you’ve applied for. You chat (amiably) for a few minutes and, hopefully, schedule a time for an interview.
Well the first thing to do is: Don’t Panic! Remember, you’re just having a conversation, okay? Breathe. Conversations are usually fine. You can handle this. You introverts are probably having apoplexy just thinking about all the ways a conversation, with another human being, could possibly go wrong. You extroverts are probably thinking about what you’re going to wear and calmly going over your resume in your heads. Ambiverts are probably doing a little bit of both. I imagine a little internal tennis match. Spectator’s heads following the ball of thought left and right, left and right. It’s almost as amusing as it is frustrating.
How about a little more insight into yours truly. While, yes, I tend to recharge in a solitary way, focused inward, I also love interviewing.
You: What? No one loves interviewing! That’s nuts!
Me: Maybe. I never claimed to be totally sane!
Let’s put this another way. Lots of folks in today’s job market have had some sales experience. It could be that you worked in fast food and got super-skilled at super-sizing or had the highest sales of that week’s promotional item: two bacon, egg & cheese biscuits for two dollars. There’s a reason for that. It could be that you worked in retail (clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, doesn’t matter) and got really good at selling the things the store carried that you felt particularly drawn to. There’s a reason for that, as well.
You are selling fast food items for a bargain and with a little oomph you can convince that drive through person that this bargain is exactly what they need. You’ve mastered this skill.
You are selling jewelry items. Jewelry is, mostly, not cheap. How can you convince someone to purchase a piece? You make them love it. If you love it, you can make your buyer see all they reasons they can love it, too, and take it home with them. If you love or believe in the thing that you’re selling, you can hardly lose.
What could possibly be easier to talk about than yourself? You are, for all intents and purposes, selling yourself. (No – not in that way. Please stop grinning and get your mind out of the gutter, we’re a serious institution here.) Theoretically, we love ourselves, right? I mean, we may not always like ourselves very much, but hey, we’re A-Okay. We’ve got it going on. Our resume says so. So why would you have trouble sitting down with a potential employer to talk about yourself? You’ve got skills! You’re a good, hard-working, time-management managing, team player. You get my point, right?
Interviewers tend to ask questions that fall into two general categories: Easy ones and hard ones. The easy ones are most likely as much as an employer can legally ask about you, personally. The “Tell me about yourself…” question is a pretty generic one. They can’t ask you how old you are, if you’re married, if you have kids, if you’re pregnant (that’s a whole other issue)…but if they ask you to tell them about yourself, what might you share?
The hard ones are usually more job-related. “I see that you have background in sales and customer service. Tell me about how you might apply that skill to an administrative position with ABC Co.?” Oh, boy. I can’t tell you how to answer that one (actually, I could, but I won’t), but if you do, legitimately, have sales and customer service experience and are applying for an administrative position, then there’s got to be a reason you can do what you do. You know this. You do it every day. You can make it seem plausible to the interviewer because you know it’s possible and you can make the interviewer believe it.
So what category do you fit in? You should know yourself well enough to at least be able to figure out if you’re an extrovert, an introvert, or an ambivert. Yes, I suppose there are folks out there who really don’t know themselves all that well. But for the purposes of this article let’s pretend you know yourself pretty well.
- Tone it down a bit. I’m not saying don’t be yourself. That would be an impossibility. All I’m saying is where you might respond to things with overwhelming enthusiasm, don’t. Take it down a notch and respond with thoughtfulness and respect. An introverted interviewer may not appreciate too much excitement; but,
- Show excitement. Enough so the extroverted employer gets excited about what you can do for them but not so much that you become overwhelming.
- Take it up a notch. Again, I’m not saying don’t be yourself. But if you’re natural inclination is to respond with one syllable words and a monotone voice, try reaching into your vocabulary words from school and add some inflections of enthusiasm. An introverted interviewer will appreciate the effort, and an extroverted one will listen to what you have to say with seriousness and reflection.
- Show excitement. I can only imagine how this must be for a true introvert to show an acceptable level of excitement. But you are excited, right? You’re just more nervous than excited. Consider the ways you could make that nervousness seem like excitement. An introverted interviewer will totally understand that you’re making an effort and an extroverted one will most likely see the side of you that a lot of others may not see.
Here’s what I’m suggesting: ambiversion is what you introverts and extroverts should try to strive for when you’re interviewing. If you’re too bright and electric for an introverted employer, you’ll scare them. If you’re too quiet, spouting monosyllabic answers to an extroverted employer, they’ll pass you over for someone with more personality. It’s going to be a struggle, I get that. A delicate balance. But if you can find that happy medium, that place where you (regardless of your personality tendencies) can feel comfortable in an interview, you’re going to seem more relaxed, you’ll showcase yourself and your skills quite well and knock the socks off your competitors to nail that interview.
One last thought. Yes, it is a competition. You want to outshine everyone else in every way possible. It may take a little work on your part, but you can do it.
Some excellent follow-up reading:
Tananda Dot Com: The Ins and Outs
What’s Your Personality Type?
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
Extraversion and Introversion