Being shy doesn’t just put a ding in your dating and social life; being an introvert can also negatively impact your ability to snag a new job. Yep, that’s right. “Introverts are usually the ones who shrink away from the limelight,” says Dawn Rasmussen, a certified résumé writer and president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. “And unfortunately, when in an interview, the candidate is now front and center on a stage and under intense scrutiny from the audience. That puts a lot of pressure on shy people—and this is exactly where they don’t like to be.” What’s more, explains Rasmussen “introverts are the last type of person to talk about themselves or their accomplishments, so this is the quintessential ‘double whammy’ of being the center of attention and being asked to talk about themselves.” Sounds like a nightmare.
But it doesn’t have to be. You can be introvert and still win over a hiring manager in an interview. With these expert tips, you’ll dazzle—all without stepping too far from your comfort zone. Read on, and then get to work.
1. Practice makes perfect. You know that stomach flab you want to make go away? You can’t without some crunches. “Like any kind of muscle, exercise makes it grow stronger,” says Rasmussen. And the same goes for your interviewing skills. “Most of us interview only every so often, so that interview muscle is usually pretty flabby,” she says. “So set up a plan to practice interviewing with friends, family, or mentors on a regular basis. The routine of it will become more comfortable to you—so that when you are actually in a real interview, you’ll feel like this is familiar territory.”
2. Make a list. Afraid that you won’t know what to say in the interview? Then this tip is for you. “Go over your resume and make a list of discussion points that need highlighting throughout the interview,” advises Heather Huhman, Generation Y career expert and founder of Come Recommended. “For each point you list, add a specific story or example of how you’ve accomplished this in a previous job. This will help you feel prepared walking into the interview and employers will love hearing you talk directly about experiences that pertain to their open position.”
3. Understand your value. “It is really easy to push off accomplishments as a team contribution,” says Rasmussen. “Oftentimes, it is the synergy of the team that allows for projects to get completed successfully.” But that team isn’t going to be sitting in the interview with you, Rasmussen points out. Instead, this interview is all about you. “Changing your mental perspective is critical to understanding your value,” she says. “Instead of thinking that you are boasting about your accomplishments, try asking, ‘how have I helped?’ When we put it into this type of context, it’s a lot easier to discuss how you’ve helped a company. And that’s what will dazzle employers.”
4. Focus on the facts. Let’s face it: “When you’re nervous, it’s easy to ramble and talk yourself into a corner,” says Huhman. (Even those of us who aren’t introverts have been there.) So instead of going on and on and on about, well, nothing, instead, “be direct, specific, and to the point when explaining why you’re the right person for the job,” suggests Huhman. Why? “Sticking to succinct points will increase your confidence and show employers an impressive confidence,” Huhman says.
5. Know your target. Research may not seem glamorous, but it can give you the confidence boost you need for an interview. “The more research you do on a company, the more information you have at your disposal to bring up during the conversation,” says Rasmussen. This is especially true for introverts, who may “worry about having something to say,” she says. “By being well-read and versed on the target company, it is going to be a lot easier to apply some of that knowledge into your answers. Employers love it when you take the time to get to know their company at more than a superficial level. And you never know when dropping a tidbit into a conversation can turn the tide into your favor.”
6. Dress for the job you want. This sounds more like fashion advice than help to get over your shy personality, we know. But believe it or not, “job seekers often overlook the importance of dressing for success,” says Huhman. To help you speak up, “wear professional attire, but also make sure you’re feeling comfortable. Even introverts have that one outfit that makes them feel confident! When you feel comfortable in your own skin, that confidence will radiate out to the interviewer.”
7. Make it easy to get to know you. When you’re shy, you sometimes build a wall around yourself—without even knowing it. But, “unfortunately, getting to know you is exactly what an employer wants to do so they can determine culture fit,” advises Rasmussen. But she’s got just the thing for you to do. “A trick to use to take the heavy weight of expectations out of the interview room is to start the interview before it begins,” she says. “You can do this by pushing past your comfort zone when you first walk into the interview and initiating the conversation by saying how excited you are to be here to discuss ABC with the company. You could add that you just read XYZ about them—and do they have any feedback about that? Using this approach, you have just led off the interview. And what you have done is that you have taken the pressure off by shifting the interview into more of a conversation.”