Pity the job-hunting introvert. Unlike gregarious extroverts, who get energy from being around other people, introverts are more inwardly focused. They’re not necessarily shy, but they do tend to prefer one-on-one interaction to being part of a large group, and they need time alone to recharge their batteries after interacting with others. For an extrovert, a networking event or job interview is a chance to make connections and let their personality shine. For a more reserved introvert, those events can be draining and stressful.
What’s an introvert who’s in the market for a new job to do? The answer, as it turns out, isn’t to try to act more like an extrovert. It’s to learn how to leverage your unique strengths and then use them to your advantage as you network, go on interviews, and negotiate a job offer. Suddenly, traits that seemed like a liability – like a tendency to do a lot of prep work rather than “winging it” during an interview – actually make you a stronger candidate. (If you’re not sure if you’re an introvert or extrovert, try taking this test.)
To learn more about how introverts can succeed in their job search, we talked to Tim Toterhi, an executive coach with Plotline Leadership and the author of The Introvert’s Guide to Job Hunting. Here are the tips he shared.
1. Know thyself
Introverts tend to be pretty self-aware, which can be a big advantage when job hunting. You can draw on your strong sense of who you are to tell a story about yourself and your career. That, in turn, will help you sell yourself as the best candidate and give you leverage in negotiating an offer, since the value you bring to the table is clear.
“[K]now your personal brand – what you are known for, what are you good at – and make sure that gets articulated and is valued in the negotiation later,” Toterhi said.
2. Prepare, prepare, prepare
“A lot of extroverts are very comfortable with winging it and navigating a conversation in an interview,” Toterhi said. “What I typically find is that introverts are able to do more homework in advance.”
A tendency to take the time to research a company and prep for a conversation in advance could give an introvert a leg up over other candidates. For one, you’ll wow your interviewer with your knowledge of the industry and their business. More important, you’ve given yourself a chance to think through how you’ll answer common interview questions and explain how your specific experience relates to the role in question.
3. Don’t be afraid to slow down
Introverts’ more cautious tendencies – like a preference for formulating an answer to a question before speaking rather than thinking out loud – don’t always play well in interviews, where a few seconds’ pause can seem to drag on for minutes. Still, you shouldn’t fight your need to take things a bit slower, Toterhi said.
Instead, look for ways to get into a comfortable rhythm with an interviewer and avoid the “deer in headlights” look, which can set a bad tone. Something as simple as accepting the offer of a glass of water or coffee slows down the conversation and can help you relax, as can techniques like taking notes in the interview, Toterhi said.
4. Get ready to take the job hunt offline
These days, job searchers have more digital tools than ever at their fingertips to help them network, create a personal brand, and find a new gig. A robust LinkedIn profile and online portfolio can be incredibly valuable when you’re looking for work, especially in the early stages of the search, and for the less outgoing, they’re a way to sell themselves and make connections they might not otherwise be able to. But introverted job seekers also need to be prepared to take the job hunt offline.
“At the end of the day, you have to have the skills to do the face-to-face,” Toterhi said. “That interview skill is critical. You can’t escape it.”
5. Don’t fear the negotiation
Once you’ve made it through the interview and secured an offer, there’s another big hurdle: Negotiating the offer. Don’t see the process of hashing out salary and benefits as a obstacle, but rather an opportunity.
“[A]n introvert can actually shine [in a negotiation], because one of the things they bring to the table is not rushing to an answer,” Toterhi said. Rather than blurting out a response to the “What are your salary requirements?” question, introverts can use their desire to move slowly and seek out more information to their advantage. “Reframe the question,” Toterhi suggested, by asking about the salary range for the position. Then, you can figure out what you’re willing to accept and move forward from there. Introverts also shouldn’t hesitate to ask for benefits that might help them perform better, like telecommuting or working in a quieter environment.
6. Don’t assume certain jobs are off limits
Certain careers, like accounting, writing, design, and coding, tend to be associated with introversion. But those are hardly the only jobs where an introvert can thrive.
“I know off-the-chart introverts who are rock star salespeople and conference planners and even professional speakers,” Toterhi said. “I coach someone who’s a corporate trainer, so they spend a lot of their days in front of people, and it was incredibly draining for them.” But the client was passionate about the work, so they developed coping strategies to reduce stress and get the “me-time” they needed, including doing thorough prep work and carving out down time at the end of the day to recharge.
“I think for introverts, anything is possible,” Toterhi said. “Flex your style, chase your passion, and don’t let anything get in your way.”