How to recruit introverts

Last updated Jul 25, 2022 | Managing Introverts

How to recruit introverts

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Traditional interviewing practice and the wording of many job adverts, reinforce an extrovert bias making it harder for introverts to stand out. Things like ‘charm’, “ability to think on your feet” and ‘outgoing, self starters‘ generally mean extrovert (despite none of those traits excluding introverts). As a recruiter your role is to find the best candidate for the role. This article suggests ways to change how you interview to reduce the extrovert bias, find better (and more) introverts for role.

Click here or scroll to the bottom of the page for a summary of this article.

The good things about recruiting introverts

There are many introvert strengths, some include:

  • Talk to think, not think to talk. If you want somebody who considers the question, doesn’t just blurt out the first thing in their head, listens to the evidence and is happy to challenge the status quo; consider more introverts. There is also a value in “talk to think” (the typical extrovert approach), but  many firms already have people doing this.
  • Detail: Whilst not a introvert test, more introverts are at the detail end of the spectrum than extroverts. So if your role needs a detailed approach, consider how you recruit. By listening to the detail, introverts can add to bigger picture discussions where needed.
  • Different perspectives: Bringing a mix of types of people into a team will give you wider perspective on issue. That can help improve customer service, sales, leadership. Look for a range of different personality types in your team.
  • Focused and Productive: Introverts are often more focused and thus productive.
  • Leadership potential: Yes, introverts can make great leaders. If you’re looking for your next supervisory and leadership cadre, don’t just think “extrovert”.
  • Creativity: Creativity is not just about loud brainstorming sessions, it’s about thinking differently and applying different processes to problems in the company. Diversity of thought increases creativity.
  • Relationships: What, relationships? Don’t introverts avoid people? Introverts are good at relationships, they tend to be better listeners and value fewer, deeper relationships.

I could add selling skills, networking ability – but let’s save those for another day.

Why introverts don’t come across well in interviews.

The typical interview process favours things like “ability to think on your feet” (where the test is normally do they answer quickly), outgoing or self starters (talk a lot). Here’s three reasons introverts may not initially come across as well.

  • Ego: Most introverts dislike strong egos. They’ll initially tend to understate themselves and their achievements, making them appear less effective as extroverts. However, if you ask for more information, it’s there.
  • Internal processing: Introverts think to talk. They tend to value accurate, well structured answers, over rapidly expressed answers. Internal processing isn’t better (or worse) than external processes, just different.
  • Small talk: Most introverts don’t like small talk, many extroverts love it. Add that to a stressful situation and testing for candidates via small talk isn’t going to help.

4 tips to improve your recruitment

These ideas will help you find the best person and remove bias. They don’t just relate to introversion.

  • Job specification and team fit:  Before you advertise, carefully consider the role. What competencies does it really need and what do you want to compliment your existing team? List them and what they mean, to you.
  • Look for skill, competence, and character. A diverse team with a diversity of thinking gives the best environment for growth, innovation and productivity.
  • Questions: What questions, or tests, will help reveal the essential skills and experiences you’re seeking? Know how you’ll test for each (question, or test), then keep your interview questions to the point and relevant to the role. Failing to define the knowledge, experience and behaviours you’re looking for makes it impossible to come up with appropriate questions.
  • Send advance information to candidates. Allowing candidates to prepare means they can show themselves more effectively to you (specially introverts). Send information about the interview, what you’re looking for, your selection process and the company. This allows preparation so they demonstrate competencies, rather than your ability to catch people out.

6 tips to to effectively interview introverts

Having prepared for the interviews, these six tips more effectively interview introverts (and extroverts).

  1. Don’t talk too much: Your role is to set the scene, make candidates comfortable, ask questions and listen. Don’t jump in to fill any silence, it makes candidates (specially introverts) think you’re not interested in their answer.  Neither should you spend too long talking about the company or your background (yes, many do and it’s normally irrelevant ego!). Company and role information can be sent out ahead of time. Allow introverts the time to think and answer.
  2. Time: Introverts will reflect on your questions, they’ll gather their thoughts before speaking (internal processing). This doesn’t mean they’re less confident, or less competent. Good questions demand thinking time, allow candidates time. If there’s no answer, try the question again.
  3. Listen: Make notes, not assumptions. Pay closer attention to the candidate’s answers, both verbal and non-verbal.
  4. Standardise the process. Consistent and structured interviews allow all candidates an opportunity to demonstrate their capability for your role and firm’s requirements. Then you can judge the candidates more effectively. If candidates know the process before attending, they’ll be better prepared and you’ll discover more about them. Challenging your candidates with the right questions and time to prepare gives you a better idea of who you are hiring.
  5. Dig deeper: Having standard questions does not mean only asking those questions. Recruiters often ask a “standard question” then move to the next topic, wasting a opportunity. Ask each standard question, listen to the answer, then dig for more information, to really understand your candidate. By digging into the subject you’ll be better able to test their competencies. Then you can move onto the next standard question.
  6. They may undersell themselves: Don’t mistake a candidate’s lack of “excitement” about herself as a lack of enthusiasm or ability. Introverts tend to avoid bravado. If you don’t get an answer gushing with how wonderful they are at xyz, dig for more details. From some people you’ll get the data you need to show they can do the job, from others you’ll realise the first answer was only bravado!

2 tips to select the best person for the job

  • Judge afterwards, listen at the time. Take notes during the interview, don’t make assumptions, rely on memory, or decide there and then. Review your notes afterwards against the criteria you’re looking for.  The best candidate could be introvert, or extrovert, look for the best fit against the requirements.
  • Avoid hiring on ‘gut’ feelings. Use a consistent, structured process so you can compare everybody equally. Hiring on a ‘gut’ feeling can be a mistake and often means hiring on your subconscious bias.

The right person for your role is very unlikely to be judged on introversion or extroversion, as everybody has different skills and different ways of showing those skills.


TLDR: How to recruit introverts

Introverts form a third to a half of the population and many selection processes put them at a disadvantage. Not because they can't do the job, but because many recruiters are subconsciously biased in their search. Recruiting the best person for your role is not about introversion or extroversion, but the competencies and team fit you need.

Planning in more detail before even advertising the role allows you to write the advert more effectively, get a better pool of candidates and prepare better questions which are more likely to find you the person you need. The way you run the interview could also make it easier for extroverts to shine over introverts.

Being more structured in your interview will allow you to dig deeper into the skills you seek, and reduce your subconscious (extrovert) bias. Making your decisions after the interviews, in a structured manner will allow you to select the best person.

This article has eight tips to help you.

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Gina Gardiner is well known for her leadership expertise and illuminates the way for enlightened leaders to create a more profitable & meaningful mission. Here’s our discussion on leadership and managing introverts.

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