Hiring Introverts in your Organization

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.


About the Author

Andrea Ballard

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.


Barongo Dolphin

I once went for an interview position for Human Resource Officer, as part of the interview questions was About me and i recall mention on i being an introvert” The panel(ladies) were all shocked and the response was i’m and i cannot be a HR Person yet introvert… I din’t get the job but i had to dig it further and learnt that passion doesn’t matter, i like HR and that is why to date i’m still pursuing it.

Andrea Ballard


People have very different ideas about what being an introvert means, it sounds like your interview panel had more negative connotations. A lot of people assume that HR folks are the “I like people, the more the better” type. But HR is such a broad field – there is room for everyone to thrive!

Thanks for the comment.

Arden Clise


What a great post. I never thought about how the hiring process can be biased towards extroverts. As an introvert, I really appreciate your suggestions on how to accommodate an introvert.

While introverts can excel at jobs that are less people focused, others do quite well in positions that are people focused. They just approach their socializing differently.

For instance, you might think extroverts do really well at public speaking and introverts wouldn’t do well. But, that is not the case.

For me, I love and excel at public speaking because I have the floor. I don’t have to fight to have my say. But as an introvert, I probably spend more time preparing and organizing the presentation than an extrovert might.

I agree with Tim, that organizations need to strive to have a diverse team because both introverts and extroverts bring value and different ways of working and approaching problems. That strengthens a company.

Thanks for the post!

Andrea Ballard


After having seen you deliver the Business Etiquette workshop at our office, I know you’re a great public speaker. I like how you explained why – I had never thought about introverts doing well in public speaking because they don’t have to fight to have their say!

Thanks for the comments!


Hi, there.I’m an extrovert eaeggnd to an introvert. The funny thing about our relationship is that my fiance has many more friends and a much richer social life than I have. My fiance is older and more experienced than I am he’s very well traveled. That’s because he went to a very social college in another country, where he made friends by osmosis. Many of these friends followed him to the States, and they see each other fairly regularly. Though I like socializing, I’ve lived in isolating places. I simply haven’t got as many friends. The friends I do have I keep up with religiously, but he’s socially busier than I am.I know he’s an introvert because he tells me he much prefers to be alone. Whenever we’re together we avoid huge spaces, crowds and parties. I’m totally fine with that, though I need some socialization or else I get very lonely and depressed. I have long phone conversations with my friends, he hangs out with his independently ski trips, bowling, car rides, etc and we’re very happy together.

Andrea Ballard


It sounds like you and your fiance have definitely figured out a way to make it work! I like to think of introversion/extroversion as a scale that we all travel upon. I am extroverted, but compared to my husband, I look introverted!!

I can imagine that living in isolated places as described would be difficult for you. I am glad you have found a way to get your social needs met, even in those situations.

Thanks for the comment!

Lisa Gill

Great post. I agree that interviews should be all about bringing out the best in all candidates. An extrovert might give a great first impression, but if you allow the introvert to feel comfortable and talk about their experience, asking thoughtful questions and really listening, you might find that they have an awful lot to offer.
I personally have a problem with questions like “how would you describe yourself in three words?” “if you were an animal, would what you be?” – these will only provoke the answers people think you want to hear. Let people talk in their own way! You’ll get a much better idea of who they are and how they’ll fit into the company culture…

Andrea Ballard


I agree, the “three words” question is another tricky one – because many introverts might hesitate to describe themselves as introverted! When, in fact, that might be exactly what you need for the job.

Thanks for the comment.

Tim Gardner

Thanks for writing this. As an introvert, I find myself challenging our interview teams to be specific on why they felt a candidate was “too quiet” or what they mean by “he could have told me more about….”. If the culture requires extroversion, so be it. But many times those introverts bring a diversity to the team that they could benefit from.

Andrea Ballard

Tim, I often challenge people to redefine their assumption that “talking equals participation.” Introverts often shine in social media and can provide a valued role leading that aspect of a team.


Granted, I haven’t interviewed in a long time, but when I started out looking for jobs, “act more like a man” was fairly common advice in more and less overt language.

Introversion never stopped me from interviewing well, but where things got difficult was when I had to adjust to always being that “on” person I was in the interview, rather than the “sometimes on, sometimes in” person that is the most effective me.

Andrea Ballard

Kristi, I see more organizations being flexible in regard to their employees preferences in this area. I’ve seen extroverts who have to sit at a computer all day to research a project tell their boss they have to schedule a lunch or meeting with others to keep from being totally drained; and introverts who are working in cubicle land ask to schedule a conference room just so they can get some quiet and close a door.

Dawn Passaro

Re: Hiring Introverts in your Organization
I struggled with this issue for many years. It seemed like I should be ashamed to be an introvert. This post really laid out the issue, in a straightforward nonjudgemental way! Thanks! Dawn

Dawn Passaro

Also, I agree about how the perception that we are unable to perform the job up to standard is implied simply because we don’t “brag” enough!
Our culture is so focused on creating image without substance, that it sometimes seems like that image is all there is, and then the introverts end up doing the actual work!

Andrea Ballard

No shame in being an introvert or extrovert! It’s a preferred mode and finding people who appreciate it and know how to take advantage of your natural strengths is the key.

Julie Dodd

Thank you! Being an introvert who has had to learn how to survive in an extrovert world, it’s nice to see something positive about my style for a change. It is often frustrating and a bit disheartening to find that in many instances only those who are outgoing are taken seriously. Often those of us who are quiet are seen as almost incapable. We are capable, just in a different way. I have heard more times than I care to count that I surprised someone and it always makes me want to remind them that there is more than one way to be successful.

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