Hiring Introverts: Tremendous Opportunity Overlooked?

hiring introverts

There are a growing number of studies showing the benefits of working with introverted people. They are intelligent, they are very productive and they require little employee engagement.

There are several industries that are a perfect match for introverts, but the hiring processes are still built around assessing extroverts. Are recruiters overlooking a tremendous opportunity here?

Let’s start with the basics: What does an introvert make an introvert?

First of all, we have to keep in mind that introversion and extroversion are not mutually exclusive traits. It’s much useful to think of these behaviors as the two extremes of a spectrum. Some people fall more closely to the introverted end and others to the extroverted end. There are some who are a bit both: they enjoy social interactions but also value their alone time.

The easiest way to define introverts – those closer to the introversion end of the spectrum – is to take a look at how their energy levels are affected by social situations. Extroverts more likely feel energetic, livelier after social interactions whereas introverts need alone time to recharge their energies.

Common Misconceptions about Introverts

Contrary to the common assumption that they are anti-social, introverts find it simply depleting to be in intense social situations.Introverts need to be alone with their thoughts in order to recharge their batteries.

Here are a few other things that introverts are NOT:

-Shy: introverts are not shy, they just like to think before they speak.

-Lacking self-confidence: there are self-confident and less self-confident introverts, too. They can be as certain about their abilities as their extroverted colleagues, but they will probably be less loud about them.

-Having poor social skills: they can act perfectly naturally in social situations, they just need to be alone after intense interactions.

How are Introverts a Great Fit for the Tech Industry?

There are several studies showing that introverts are exceptionally talented and intelligent individuals. Some of the greatest thinkers in history have been introverts.
Since they prefer professions where they can think and work without constant interruptions, they frequently choose carriers involving working alone, preferably in a low-key environment, or at home.

They usually end up working in the tech industry and operate on maker schedules. As Paul Graham puts it:

“When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. (…) For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.”

Introverts can be very productive when given the right conditions to work in. They thrive when their work is not interrupted by draining meetings and produce exceptional results when the environment is right. This also means they are much more independent in their work and need less employee engagement.

Introverts: Great Leaders, Too?

Introverts tend to build out deeper and more lasting professional relationships and become remarkable team leaders.

Counterintuitive it may seem, research suggests that they make better leaders than extroverts, because “they are more likely to let proactive employees run with their ideas, whereas extroverts can feel threatened by employees who take too much initiative. The study also found introverts to be up to 20 per cent more likely to follow up colleagues’ suggestions than extroverts.”

Therefore, introverts are better at supporting initiative-takers, which is vital to being a good manager.

As Susan Cain says in her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking: “We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.”

Should Introverts be Treated Differently Through the Hiring Process?

In short: YES. Most of today’s hiring practices are focusing on assessing extroverted personalities. Candidates are put into stressful social situations with usually more than one people assessing their skills at once.

Interviewers are frequently looking for social signals – even if subconsciously – that introverts are not able to produce. If we want to reap the benefits of working with introverted personalities, we need to make adjustments to the hiring processes.

5 Advices for Assessing Introverted People:

#1 Start with a personality test. Before putting the candidates into stressful interview situations, make them fill out a test to see where they fall on the introversion-extroversion scale. The personality test can assess other traits as well: what are the conditions under witch the candidates operate at their peak and what are their biggest setbacks in a working environment.

This way the employer can decide on whether the role and the working conditions can be sufficiently adjusted to make the candidates as productive as possible.

#2 Dig deep into references. Checking for references will often times tell more about the candidate than a personal interview. Hearing several perspectives on the candidate’s past working experiences can help decide if they are a good fit for the role. The best way to learn a lot about a candidate is not only to check the facts about their employment history, but to ask for honest opinions from past employers.

#3 Making the interview process less draining. While extroverts can thrive in situations where they can interact with several interviewers, the opposite is true for introverts. Make sure to offer one on one interview opportunities for introverts where they are questioned by someone who has prior experience and knowledge about assessing different types of personalities.

#4 Hiring managers should prepare for interviewing introverts in advance. Just a little insight into behavioral questions and preparation on introvert’s psychology can help a lot.

Nicola McHale is leadership development coach and trainer with the Institute of Recruiters. She says: “Introverts don’t say anything unless it is worth saying. So the quality of their input is usually spot on. They think first before speaking and they ask great questions because they think fast.”

But she adds: “They can let themselves down in the recruitment process by coming across as shy, quiet, secretive, reactive and low energy. People usually do not realize how great an introverted candidate is until the second or third interview – or maybe even later – which means they can miss opportunities.”

#5 Help candidates prepare in advance. Introverts tend to perform poorly in unexpected situations. One way to get around this to send out as much information about the role in advance as possible. They usually like to prepare well for assessments and by giving them a chance to do so, their odds may equal out with their extroverted competition who can react to unexpected situations with ease.

With proper personality tests, reference assessments and interviewing, introverted candidates’ qualities can be assessed more accurately. This is very important if we want to hire the best people for “maker” positions, which are dominant in the tech industry. By making small adjustments to the hiring process, tech companies get a much bigger candidate pool that can bring great value to an organization.

It’s time to face the fact that not everybody is cut out for socially draining assessment processes and by giving a chance to people with diverse perspectives, not only businesses but the whole economy will benefit.

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