Interviewing as an Introvert


This is the follow up to my last post about education and interviewing advice.  If you haven’t read that, the short story is that I was asked for tips on interviewing for an introvert who doesn’t have a typical education.  This is the interviewing half of my response:

About interviewing: being an introvert is hard.  I'm a mild introvert and have managed many.  It requires extra energy to be outgoing and can leave you drained, but sometimes, like in job interviews, you have to just pump yourself up and throw everything at it.  One of my managers told me that my quietness was becoming an issue in meetings with executives.  I started to prep for those meetings by drinking an energy drink a few hours before and doing jumping jacks before going into the conference room.  I don't like the idea of using stimulants like that often, but I will use them strategically when I need a mood boost before a life altering event.

The other part about interviewing is to make sure you have a story to tell, not just short answers to pointed questions.  Good managers look for attitude and passion; you have to convey that in a few hours.  Come prepared with the stories you have about what you enjoy about tech and what projects demonstrate your accomplishments.  Passion shows while you're telling your best stories.

So yah, interviewing sucks.  Period.  For everyone.  But it’s extra painful for someone who is naturally introverted/shy/quiet/awkward because it’s harder to demonstrate your competencies.

I’ve also noticed that the deck is stacked against them.  I observed this firsthand dozens of times at my previous company where I participated in 100+ interviews.  In written interview feedback and hiring decision discussions it’s often noted by others that being quiet or giving short answers is a negative.  I’d get on my soapbox and defend those candidates.  “Being loud and extroverted is not a leadership principle,” I would say, and focus the conversation on whether we asked enough follow up questions to give the candidate opportunities to tell their full story.  I can’t say I actually changed their minds, but at least I saved one candidate from being a victim of introvert bias.