Executive Careers: How Introverts Can Ace Interviews


By Amy Crutchfield

Every executive who enters a job search dreams of being selected for the position. The process to get there can be tough, however. In higher education, for example, there will be a day packed with interviews, events, and breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings. This is when the dream becomes more of a potential nightmare for introverts. I know this particularly well because I consider myself an introvert.

As introverts, we are probably at a disadvantage in the traditional vetting process and its interview- and meeting-filled agenda. This does not have to dampen the prospects of introverts getting those next great positions, however. I had the chance to offer suggestions to introverts seeking positions in academe in a recent article for The Chronicle of Higher Education – “Introverts and Interviews.” Allow me to share a brief summary of my advice:

  1. Amy Crutchfield

    Prepare for a long day or two. You’ll likely be scheduled from morning well into the evening, and maybe for more than just one day. You’ll be meeting many people. It’s going to be draining. You may be able to schedule a short break to recharge. If not, take full advantage of any “down time” you do have—even if it is just a few minutes between interviews, it could provide a needed boost to your energy level.

  1. Play on your strengths but learn from extroverts. Introverts are generally very good, attentive listeners who, because we are listening, are able to ask thoughtful and perceptive questions. But sometimes we forget to speak up and make it clear we’ve been listening. You can do this by simply taking a moment at the end of the interview to summarize what you’ve discussed, proving that you’ve heard and understood what has been said.
  1. Practice small talk. Though introverts don’t lack social skills, we aren’t as good at, nor interested in, small talk as our more extroverted peers. Since it is actually one of the ways you’ll be judged as a candidate, the ability to participate in small talk is an important step toward letting people know that you are the kind of person with whom they want to work.
  1. Know it will be over soon. Though it may seem you are in a marathon, once over it will seem like a sprint. Push yourself throughout the interview process, including accepting any additional chances to get to know the interviewers, even when you don’t think you can handle another conversation. It will pay off in the end.

In addition, knowing and embracing your introverted self—your strengths and your weaknesses—will help ensure your success in the campus interview – and throughout your career.

Amy Crutchfield is deputy managing director of Witt/Kieffer’s Education Practice and a consultant on management searches for a variety of colleges and universities.

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