A long-standing belief is that natural leaders are all extroverts. You know the type. They’re decisive, enjoy speaking publicly, and enjoy social settings. Everybody else — the remaining 25 per cent of the population? Well, you might be quick to call them ‘passive’ — and best suited to hide behind the scenes. There’s more to it though, so as my grandma likes to say, “bite your tongue”.
You might be surprised to realise that 70 per cent of the world’s CEOs describe themselves as introverts. Bill Gates. Warren Buffett. Even movie magnate Steven Spielberg and Sara Lee’s Brenda Barnes. The list of well-known “Who’s Who” of corporate introverted CEOs goes on and on.
So, hiring managers — what does all of this mean for you? In a nutshell, you can’t judge an introvert by her silence. You need to dig deep into the conversation to really understand the value she might add to your team. In fact, there’s a whole book about this very topic — “Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.”
“You can’t judge an introvert by her silence.”
If you expect everybody to be an extrovert, there’s no way that they’ll interview well. Think of some of the industry’s best developers, writers, and analysts. They tend to be incredibly high in cognition with exceptional stress tolerance. You want these folks on your team. Here’s what to know about interviewing them.
1. They won’t try to sell you
That doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the job. They’re just being real — think of them as genuine and aversive to playing politics. They’ll be upfront about their weaknesses without sugar coating the tough stuff. When they say they care, they’re being totally honest. You absolutely need this authenticity as part of your team. So don’t be taken aback by surprisingly blunt answers. Embrace ’em.
2. They are great actors
Introverts spend their lives learning to adapt to social settings — and they’re smart enough to have learned to do it well. They can probably read you better than you can read yourself. So don’t be fooled by the quiet. They know how to “act the part” of social. They’ve been there, done that — and they’re over it. You may feel like you’re not able to read them, and you definitely won’t have a steady read on their emotions. Imagine what a valuable asset that is to leadership and high-stress situations. That level of emotional control? That’s just what your team needs.
3. They don’t like small talk
Hiring managers, be prepared to pry for more information — this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Introverts will be incredibly direct in their answers to you. They’ll tell you exactly what you want to know without the added fluff. If you want elaboration, you need to be direct about it and ask for it. So don’t stop the conversation short with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. It’s your job as the hiring manager to keep the discussion going.
4. They get tired of people quickly
In the world of introverts, there is such a thing as “too much social”. Introverts don’t always prefer to be alone, but they do get tired of people quickly. Now — that doesn’t mean that your interviewee will spontaneously close up. But they may not like being part of a group interview for very long. They also probably won’t want to meet with 10 people in a row without a break to decompress. It isn’t weird — it’s totally healthy.
5. They are widely misunderstood
“Extroverts are easy for introverts to understand, because extroverts spend so much of their time working out who they are in voluble, and frequently inescapable, interaction with other people,” wrote Jonathan Rauch in an article for The Atlantic. “They are as inscrutable as puppy dogs. But the street does not run both ways. Extroverts have little or no grasp of introversion. They cannot imagine why someone would need to be alone; indeed, they often take umbrage at the suggestion.”
Introverts aren’t weird. They’re just… introverts. Don’t make assumptions, and don’t misjudge. You need to jump into the conversation with an extremely open mind.
6. They hate to repeat themselves
So stop asking the same questions over and over! Make an effort to truly listen instead of half-heartedly paying attention. Introverts prefer to be direct and to the point. They don’t want to reinvent the wheel — they would much rather switch gears and tackle something new. That goes for conversations too. Repetition is boring.
OK, so you’re convinced that you want to interview an introvert. Good idea — if you’re lucky, you very well might find the next Bill Gates (which is just the type of brilliance that your company needs). So here’s a quick recap of things to remember:
1. Ask lots of follow-up questions.
2. Don’t be quick to judge.
3. Don’t be taken aback by candor — embrace it.
4. Keep the conversation interesting.
5. Don’t make the interview a long-winded party — keep it short, focused, and to the point.
6. Lose the small talk — focus on what matters.
7. Quit stereotyping and start listening with an open mind.
Have you ever had to interview an introvert? Tell us your best practices in recruiting the quiet ones.
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