If you're an introvert, and you think of the stereotypical job interview -- especially a how-to video that shows someone "crushing" a job interview -- it's easy to feel that being introverted and shy is a weakness, not a strength. It's easy to feel that it is impossible to make a great first impression. That's especially true if you assume that doing well in a job interview is based on force of personality, not on qualifications, experience, and expertise.
Being an extrovert is a prerequisite for making a great impression in a job interview, right?
The best way to make a great first impression in a job interview -- and to make a great impression throughout the interview -- is to play to your strengths as an introvert. Don't try to become something you're not. Highlight all the great things you are.
And keep in mind that some of the most successful people are introverts. Take Bill Gates, of whom Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, said, "Bill Gates is quiet and bookish, but apparently unfazed by others' opinions of him: He's an introvert, but not shy."
Warren Buffett is an introvert. J.K. Rowling says she was too shy to ask anyone for a pen to jot down ideas for the Harry Potter series when she first came up with the concept.
The list goes on and on. So what is it about introverts that makes them so great at business?
Let's take a look at some of the traits that introverts typically have that give them a leg up in the competitive world of business.
1. Focus on what you've done, not who you think you are -- because what you've done matters most.
If you're introverted, you probably find it hard to talk about yourself. No problem: Talk about what you've done. Focus on projects you've completed, ideas you've developed, targets you've met ... focus on what, not who.
When you describe the "what," the "who" goes without saying.
2. Take a moment to think -- because thoughtful is impressive.
Many introverts can sit in solitude for hours at a time. That may feel like an advantage when you need to map out a series of steps to complete a huge task, but not when an interviewer asks you a question and you feel you need to instantly respond.
But keep in mind the interviewer doesn't expect you to fill every moment of silence. Interviewers want to know your skills, your qualifications, your experience and also your thoughts and ideas. Great interviewers don't mind if you take a few seconds to consider the question. Great interviewers want to have a great conversation, not a rapid-fire series of questions and answers.
Why? Great employees think through their next moves instead of becoming distracted with social interactions or meaningless diversions. The ability to hyperfocus on your most meaningful goals is vital, since how you use your time defines your level of success.
So think before you speak. It's OK. While silence may feel awkward, follow it with a thoughtful response and no one will think twice about how you sat for a few seconds, clearly thinking of not how to respond but the best way to respond.
3. Actively listen to the interviewer -- because the ability to listen is the mark of a great teammate.
Introverts are also better, in general, at listening to and empathizing with people, according to Fast Company.
Listening matters. When a client, employee, or customer is upset, an introvert tends to be much more sensitive to his or her needs. Instead of reacting quickly to an issue, introverts take in the information, and then think critically about the best solution possible. (In a way, the ability to listen, and understand, is one of the most important people skills you can master.)
Listen to the interviewer. Ask questions if you don't understand. Ask for clarification. More important, find ways to use your listening skills to engage with the interviewer. The more the interview feels like a conversation, the more comfortable you will be.
And then highlight examples in which your ability to listen and process has made a difference in your career. Describe when, and how, and how it turned out.
Again, focus on what you've done, not who you are.
4. Come prepared with an idea -- because your analysis skills are a key advantage.
Along with being great at listening, introverted entrepreneurs are always looking for the best solutions, and are much less likely to allow their egos to cloud their judgment. Waylae Gregoire of NextShark wrote that while extroverts want to promote their own business plans, "introverts focus on the thoughts and actions of others ... introverts are naturally accustomed to analyzing the ideas of others, offering thoughtful feedback, and organizing what others bring to the table."
Use those skills to show how you will hit the ground running. Identify one or two important things you can contribute from day one. Then, consider putting those ideas on display. If you're a programmer, bring a mockup of a new application. If you want a sales position -- because introverts often make great salespeople -- create a plan for how you'll target a different market or customer base, or how you will implement marketing strategies the business is currently not using.
Since you know the company and know what you can immediately offer, prove it. Then you can focus on action, not talk.
5. Feel free to be humble -- because humility is an attribute every team appreciates.
Introverts aren't afraid to admit mistakes. Introverts aren't afraid to give credit where credit is due. Introverts tend to downplay their own accomplishments, if only because they're quick to see that they could have one even better.
So they are great teammates. Nothing kills team morale more quickly than a member who can't admit a mistake, can't share credit, and can't see that perfection is often possible -- as long as you're willing to work for it.
So if you made a mistake, discuss it -- and then share what you learned and what you've done differently ever since. Talk about the great things other team members did to pull off a successful project. Show that you know it's not all about you.
That makes an awesome first impression -- and an awesome lasting impression.