It’s definitely not uncommon for techies to be introverts, and this can make applying for new jobs all the more nerve-racking.
Interviews are daunting at the best of times - especially in the tech industry - so being an introvert certainly doesn’t make it any easier. But the unfortunate truth is that if you want a job you don’t really have a choice. And it’s not just about doing the interview - you need to nail it too.
So if you’re one of roughly 50% of people who identify as introverts, do not worry. I firmly believe that with the right preparation and mindset, anyone can ace an interview - so introverts, rejoice!
That’s why I’ve put together a bit of advice to help you out when you just want to curl up into a ball or osmose through a wall and run. These tips come from years of experience in the tech recruitment game, and are proven ways of making the entire interview process easier from start to finish.
- Do your research and prepare
It’s probably the first piece of advice in every generic interview tips article you’ll ever read - but it’s especially important if you’re not a natural improviser.
Know your stuff (and by that I mean everything) about the company you’re interviewing for. This is where introvertedness actually comes in really handy: as a naturally contemplative person, you can use these heightened skills to your advantage and gain a really detailed understanding of what the company does and stands for.
Knowing your stuff will mean you’re much less likely to panic or hesitate when answering a question. You should also be prepared to get up and do a solution on a whiteboard or handwrite code instead of using a computer - not going blank is key here. I see a lot of this, so find a strategy to stay focused.
Improv is an introvert’s worst nightmare
So planning what you want to say about yourself and questions you want to ask should relax you a bit. Make a document of notes on the company, the job spec, and basic interview answers, and bring that with you (along with your CV) to have a read through before you go in.
You should also learn ahead of time who will be interviewing you and what their role is. This will help you understand who your audience are. Are they technical, HR, leadership, peers? Once you know, you can plan accordingly and talk to them in an appropriate manner.
I hear a lot of techies saying they are not good at "HR type questions", but there’s more to a tech job than just numbers and problem-solving. To do well at interview, you just need to suck it up and get good at it - there’s no two ways about it.
Go through and plan answers to generic interview questions so that you’re ready for anything HR throws at you. You need to show that you have multiple capabilities and can communicate in different ways.
- Plan your journey
Citymapping your journey an hour before your interview is a surefire way of being late and very, very stressed.
Instead, take a few minutes the night before and plan out the best route to get to where you’re going. Plan to get to the area about 40 minutes to an hour before the interview time so that you can sit down, have a coffee and look over your notes, then turn up calm and collected 10 minutes early. It’s a hell of a lot better than turning up as a sweaty, panting mess and being desperate for the toilet...
If you’re feeling especially anxious (and, yes, I’ve actually done this), a quick Google Street View trip will show you exactly where you’ll need to walk. It sounds a step too far, but being familiar with the streets is actually really calming.
- Be ready for small talk
It can be painful, but, alas, it’s pretty much unavoidable. Small talk seems like such a simple, everyday occurrence - but for introverts it can be an abyss of panic.
Planning a few small talk points in advance could really save your bacon. Yes, rehearsing small talk feels a bit sad, but we all have to do it when we have a tendency to let nerves get the better of us!
It goes without saying, but avoid politics or anything potentially inflammatory. Opt for a cordial comment on the weather, something happening in the area, how nice the carpet is. Well, try to make it interesting - the point is that the world is your oyster, so just be calm, friendly and creative.
- Body language
Confidence is hard to muster if it doesn’t come naturally to you, but knowing how to control your body language will help you fake it ‘til you make it.
There are a few really simple things you can do which will transform how you come across. Start by relaxing your shoulders and sitting right back in your seat, as straight as feels comfortable - make it look natural, no Superman impressions.
Keeping your face relaxed and friendly with a good amount of eye contact is important too. Don’t stare or smile too intensely as that will only ever be creepy.
The little things really do add up. Nod while you’re listening, gesture when you speak, lean in and engage, and, most importantly, breathe deeply and calmly. Making yourself look relaxed and comfortable will eventually make you feel it too.
- Do it for the right reasons
Your interviewer doesn’t want to hear that you want the job because it’s close to your bus stop, or nearer to the city centre. And if this is the case, don’t tell the guy that (but is that really a reason to go for a job?)
Similarly, saying that you want to move to a certain location “to improve my English” is not exactly an admirable reason as far as company values are concerned...
Make sure you understand where you’d fit from a personality perspective. Are you more suited to a corporate or startup structure? What do you stand for and what environment do you work best in?
Ultimately, you need to show that you are aligned with the company values. Companies are increasingly overlooking various technical skills which can be taught in favour of a "culture fit" and a passion for the company's vision.
- Be vocal about your introvertedness
No, I promise this isn’t a trick. Being introverted is not something you should (or indeed can) hide, so why not use it to your advantage?
As well as preparing for other generic interview questions, you should also be ready to talk about your strengths and weaknesses. Often, these can ironically overlap.
Introvertedness, for example, can massively hinder your confidence; however, it does make you more pensive, considered and engaged.
There are so many strengths and skills that come off the back of being an introvert, so sell them!
Most interviews are conversational, but some can be quite structured. Because of this, most people have a default ‘interview persona’ tone, but you should really try to break this. Try to let your personality shine whether you’re introverted or not!That brings me to one more important point - don’t think of self-discussion as bragging, think of it as simply sharing your experience, achievements and skills. This way you can sell yourself in a way that reflects your personality and how you work.