The typical job interview includes many activities and situations most introverts could live without, including handshakes and introductory greetings, being the center of attention, getting peppered with questions, thinking while they're talking and tooting their own horn. An interview is, in essence, a few hours or even an entire day of being on -- with a job at stake.
If you're an introvert, you're probably never going to enjoy interviews, but you certainly won't be able to avoid them either. That's why you need to learn how to prepare for interviews with your introvert strengths and tendencies in mind.
Before the Interview
In the days leading up to your interview, you've got to "practice, practice, practice," stresses Marti Olsen Laney, PhD, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World.
You're probably already aware of the most important thing to prepare for: Responding to questions you might be asked during the interview itself. But go beyond mere rehearsing. Tap your natural propensity to gather and digest detailed information, so you become an expert on both the person you'll be talking to and the organization, says introversion expert Nancy Ancowitz.
"Research like mad," says Ancowitz, a consultant who coaches introverts on self-promotion and communication strategies. "Google everyone you'll be meeting with, go to libraries -- knock yourself out. Find out where [the interviewer] went to school, what organizations they belong to, their quotes in the press, etc. Learn as much as you can about the organization, its management structure, philosophy, products and services, and competitors."
Putting in this due diligence will give you "the knowledge advantage, which will help build your confidence," Ancowitz explains.
On Interview Day
For most introverts, the hardest part of interviewing is the inherent mystery involved in the process and the challenge of dealing with it as it's unfolding.
"While it's possible to prepare for an interview and, to a certain degree, predict questions that are likely to be asked and the format to be followed, an introvert still faces that ‘unknown' element in any interview," says career counselor Pamela Braun. (Author's disclaimer: Braun is my colleague and copresenter in seminars on the career issues of introverts.)
That's why it's critical for you to minimize every potential surprise you can think of. Here are some ideas:
Gear Up for Small Talk: "Most introverts will admit to an immediate dislike of chitchat," Braun says. "But as we all know, there is that initial period of the interview that involves small talk and getting-to-know-you conversation." Be ready for it and, if necessary, practice introductory niceties beforehand with a friend or relative.
Know Where You're Going -- Literally: A day or two before your interview, determine exactly where the interview site is and how you'll get there with plenty of time to spare. If you're interviewing locally, practice navigating your way to the site. Peace of mind conserves valuable energy.
Bring Notes and a Portfolio:Take some notes about key points you'd like to make and questions you'd like to ask so you don't waste energy worrying you'll forget something. You might even want to develop a career portfolio, a three-ring binder full of evidence of your key skills and achievements, so you have something to lean on as you go through the typically draining process of talking about yourself.
When the interview is over, you'll still be tired, but you'll have a much better chance of getting the call that you've been hired.