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So, Who Cares If You're An Introvert?

May 15, 2017

 

Someone recently asked if they should mention they are an introvert during a job interview. I found this quite interesting - as it wasn't a question I'd encountered before and it got me thinking about the benefits and potential repercussions of someone's response to this question, and whether someone proactively identifying as an introvert or an extrovert could actually have an impact on the outcome of their job-search.

 

Over the last few years I've read a lot about introversion, and describe it to people as being like a mobile phone battery. When their battery starts to go flat, an introvert needs to be alone to re-charge. If an extrovert's battery starts flashing and needs a charge, they do this by being with other people. Many people identify as one or the other, and lots of people sit somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. 

 

There’s a lot of discussion currently about the benefits of understanding the introversion/extroversion balance in the workplace, and according to some of the research, knowing this information can:

 

  • Allow managers to better understand what motivates their team members

  • Enable organisations to bring out their employees' strengths 

  • Ensure talent is developed in line with their natural preferences 

  • Factor the needs of both introverts and extroverts into office design decisions

 

Workplaces today frequently facilitate extroverted behaviour, with open plan offices becoming the norm and limited privacy available. These offices often look wonderful from a design perspective, but can result in the introverts feeling they can't get their work done at their desk and seeking solace in the nearest quiet space, and the extroverts finding they are spending too much time sharing information and socialising, which keeps them away from completing the tasks they want to get done - so it's important for workplaces to contain a balance of physical spaces appropriate for both to ensure maximum productivity.

 

Now, back to the original question. Would I recommend someone announce they are an introvert in a job interview un-prompted? No. Despite notable introverts including Bill Gates, J.K Rowling and Mark Zuckerberg, some people still associate introversion with things like being shy, reclusive, or not being a capable team player, leader or public speaker. These people won't always see the benefits of hiring an introvert, and this is also why a lot of introverts are tricky to identify - as they've become very good at mimicking extroverted behaviour during the day to avoid being "caught out" as being an introvert. 

If an interviewer ever asked if someone defined themselves as an introvert or an extrovert during an interview, I'd recommend always being honest and sharing your preference, and being prepared to openly discuss the benefits of your introversion/extroversion and what unique skills you'd bring to the organisation as a result of those. If an employer decided not to progress with an application as a result of someone being introverted, then I'd be questioning whether they were an employer you wanted to work with to start with. 

 

For further reading on introversion I highly recommend checking out the work of Susan Cain who advocates for introverts - her 2012 TED talk was inspiring and she has written a lot of useful resources on this topic including the book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Cannot Stop Talking" which is an interesting read.

 

Sian Havard is Founder at Milkshake Group, a Brisbane, Australia based consultancy which partners with startups wanting world-class talent strategies, and coaches people looking for awesome careers. Find her at www.milkshakegroup.com

 

 

 

 

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