Two UBC students talking
August 13, 2019
3 mins read

An introvert's guide to interviewing

The Introvert's Guide

I managed to avoid job interviews all throughout high school. I worked, but none of the jobs I had required interviews. Score!

Because of this, I had to learn from scratch when I started applying for “real jobs” in university and what I learned is…interviews are not my idea of a fun time.

As an introvert, even just thinking about interviewing makes me nervous. Because of this, I tended to procrastinate prepping for my interviews. Not a good idea.

I’ve since learned that pushing past the procrastination (which is hard—I know) makes all the difference. Just like anything, interviewing gets better the more you do it, and there are ways to prepare for an interview to make it as painless as possible. These are the ways that have worked for me in the past:

Do your research

Check out the website of the organization you’re interviewing for, contact people who have worked or interviewed with them before—anything you can do to give yourself a leg up.

If you’re not sure how to find someone who has worked there in the past, try searching and reaching out over Facebook or LinkedIn—most people will be super happy to help you out with some tips. Even better if you can find a mutual friend to connect you with someone!

Then, refer deliberately to things you found in your research and conversations and explain how your skills would complement that aspect of the job. If you’re not a great improviser (like myself), then this will give you confidence going into the interview that you have some concrete things to talk about.

Two students chatting at the Alumni Centre
Photo credit: Paul Joseph / UBC Brand & Marketing

Make eye contact

And smile!

Looking down or having uncomfortable body language will speak louder than anything you’re actually saying. This can be hard for some people, and introverts in particular, but it’s important to do. If you’re not sure where to look, I recommend speaking directly to the person who asked you the question (if you’re being interviewed by more than one person).

Also, people tend to mirror other people's attitudes and body language, so if you act uncomfortable and stoic, your interviewers might just reflect this back to you. If you sit up straight and smile…chances are they’ll smile back.

Be patient with yourself

Take a pause if you need to. If you need a moment to think through a question, ask the interviewers to repeat it, or take a second or two to reflect. This shows that you’re being thoughtful and not just speaking from a script—but pro tip: it’s helpful to prepare some responses to common interview questions beforehand, to boost your confidence.

Dress to (comfortably) impress

Obviously dress appropriately for what you think the position calls for, but if you dress in clothes that are too stiff or just aren't you, it might make you feel uncomfortable in the interview—which you don’t want. Make yourself comfortable by wearing things that appropriately show your personality (e.g. signature hairstyle, cool jewelry).

Send a follow-up email

And send one that doesn’t seem copy-pasted. Be sincere in the message and express your enthusiasm for the position, and your gratitude to the interviewers.

Bonus tip: Try a handwritten note for jobs you really want—you will totally stand out.

Okay, but I feel really uncomfortable talking about myself

I know—this part of it all can be the worst at times. But showing what makes you uniquely qualified for the position is what a job interview is all about, and you have to talk about yourself and your amazing qualities to do this—even if it’s hard and might seem disingenuous at first.

Try drawing on your personality and how being an introvert has helped you in past jobs/other settings. Here’s a cheat sheet:

Being an introvert can be an asset because…

  1. A workplace needs people with different perspectives, not the loudest voices.
  2. Since introverts often aren’t the loudest voices, they’re more inclined to be the most active and engaged listeners. This is an asset when dealing with clients, solving problems, and hearing a variety of perspectives.
  3. Introverts are thoughtful and are unlikely to act impulsively or carelessly on important tasks.
  4. Introverts are able to focus on tasks and are hard workers.

Now, don’t just recite these points in an interview…I mean you can do that, but also actually think about what they mean to you, personally. What does it mean to be an introvert? What does it mean for that to be an asset, and how can you utilize this asset in your job, in class, and in your personal life?

Reframe your thinking…

A post shared by Mari Andrew (@bymariandrew) on Mar 13, 2018 at 4:51am PDT

...and you might just start believing it yourself!

If you need proof, here’s a list of some of history’s most successful introverts.

The main obstacle to being successful in your job search is any limiting view about yourself or the skills you bring to the table. Reframe your thoughts, prepare in advance, and there’s no reason why you can’t succeed as an introvert. Best of luck on your next interview—you’ve got this.

Header photo credit: Martin Dee / UBC Brand & Marketing