Introverts are getting a lot of attention lately. Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in A World That Can't Stop Talking, is popping up on best-seller lists and articles touting the power of introverts are being published left and right.
Recently I teamed with Beth Buelow, an Introvert expert and owner of The Introvert Entrepreneur, to give a SHRM Chapter meeting presentation about introverts and HR. With as many articles as I was seeing about introverts, I figured there must be some information out there about how we in HR can find, hire and promote more introverts.
Well, I was wrong.
As I started my Goggle search I found a whole lot of articles about introverts. The problem was, they all told introverts how to act more extroverted. How to shine in job interviews by bragging about themselves, and how to get more comfortable walking into a crowded room of strangers and networking.
Even as a card-carrying extrovert myself, this made me uncomfortable. We certainly don’t tell other candidates to “be more physically-abled” or “act more like a man” so why do we tilt so far toward the extroversion side when it comes to hiring? Is the introversion/extroversion preference the last frontier in diversity?
I asked Beth to explain introversion and extroversion to me. She explained it as how people gain or drain energy. Extroverts gain energy around people and introverts gain energy when they are alone. Most people have qualities of both. Introverts are normal. Extroverts are normal. Neither type is better or worse than the other – they simply indicate your natural preferences. Knowing which is more dominant can help you understand why you a
re exhausted after a large party, or bored when you are alone.
Our culture in the United States, and in many of our companies, is biased toward extroversion. Many of our job descriptions either use the word extroverted or other phrases such as “friendly and outgoing” and “at ease with people at all levels of the organization.” Many jobs do require these traits, and I’m not suggesting that we change those. But it did lead me to wonder if a preference toward extroversion gives those people an edge in interviewing, when an introvert may in fact be better suited for the job.
It’s not hard to make small changes that can make a big difference.
Don’t put candidates through panel interviews that are convenient for scheduling at your company, but not representative of the type of work they’ll be doing. Adequately prepare the candidate prior to the interview with as much information as possible about the position and the people they’ll be interviewing with. Pause during the interview and get comfortable with silence; don’t rush to fill every moment with talking. And encourage candidates to contact you via email after the interview with additional questions or further insights they may have.
What can you do today to make introverts more comfortable in your interview process?
Photo credit: iStockphoto
About the author: For 15+ years, Andrea Ballard, SPHR, has brought a unique, common sense perspective to the business of HR. A former HR Director and Training Manager, she advises companies on how to design/implement flexible work life programs to attract/retain top talent. A certified coach, she helps women create a balance between motherhood & career. She is the owner of Expecting Change, LLC, blogs at Working Mother and is on Twitter as @andreaballard.
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