Media reports suggest many hiring managers seemingly prefer extroverts than introverts in interviews. Introverts often don’t create that favourable first-impression as extroverts, being far more reluctant to sell themselves at an interview; and so many interviewers favour those who can engage quickly and energetically in conversation. As per Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, organisations are more likely to hire assertive people who prefer social life and are energised by interacting with strangers. She argues, however, that noisier extroverts might not always be ideal in the workplace!
So are hiring managers being biased when they habitually prefer extroverts to introverts? A perception in our society is that introverts are shy and they do not, or cannot, talk to people. Some view them as snobbish, while some view them as fools. Many hiring managers have been disappointed by the long pauses while interviewing introvert personalities – a reason why they end up disfavouring them. Another reason why hiring managers disfavour them is because introverts are often unable to speak about themselves outside of the work they did!
But these are misinformed views. The difference between the two personality-types lies in the fact that introverts seldom open up to new people quickly or they choose to be quiet as they decide with whom and to what extent they want to open up. But being introvert doesn’t necessarily mean an inability to talk professionally. Introverts can talk a lot at work, and they can have wonderful communication and presentation skills. One way of viewing this is that an extrovert might give a “wow” presentation that keeps everyone impressed; however an introvert may give a more effective presentation whose content is more solid! A 2010 study by the University of Pennsylvania showed introvert leaders typically delivered better outcomes than extroverts. It is worth noting that introverts make up some of the best performers across jobs, with the likes of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Tom Hanks, Audrey Hepburn, David Letterman, Michael Jordan, Abraham Lincoln and others for company.
It is probably unwise to mix personal traits and professional requirements on the same plate, especially in the South Asia countries where the societal way of working is still more collectivistic than individualistic (although that is slowly changing). From that perspective, introverts do well in separating their personal traits and professional demands to deliver in their work. As per Nicola McHale, a leadership development coach, introverts don’t say anything unless it is worth saying. They think before speaking. So the quality of their input is usually spot on. On the other hand, extroverts often tend to generate a lot of noise despite all their positive qualities!
In fact, that’s another perk of introverts. Since they spend less time talking, they get more time to think and listen, both of which are essential skills for performance at the workplace! Many introvert people tend to be more creative, dynamic, perceptive and out-of-the box thinkers.
I am an introvert myself in terms of personality-trait. When I decided to study marketing, many people told me that marketing is not for introvert people and that I won’t do well in future given the role’s demands. But I built upon, and remained confident on, my own competencies and capabilities because I knew myself! I have always tried to be proactive, and hence have been able to do a lot of things. The driving-factor to perfect my work output was my passion, determination and hard work, before anything else!
In short, the perceived inability of introverts to succeed in a competitive corporate world is a misconception – possibly more to do with hiring managers using any pretext to narrow down the list of prospective candidates they send ahead to functional managers for the next-round, rather than a substantial criterion in itself.
In my profession, I work well with several people (each different in their own way). Diversity is not a nightmare at all. You don’t need to only talk well to succeed. Of course, you eventually need to talk at the right place and at the right time to market your work in a competitive workplace (a survey by Canada’s Globe Careers showed introverts comprised 50% of middle-managers but only 30% of CEOs, if that is a correlation between personality-trait and career-growth). But there is no need for the constant/instant talk that is often identified with extroverts. Maintain the quality of your output, and it will talk for you. In this era of competition, work quality and integrity pays off too!
The point here is not to undermine the importance of quick verbal communication. In any case, communication is a broader universe than just that. The moot point is that it’s not essential to be an extrovert to succeed, unlike what many hiring managers perceive. If you want to succeed in your job, know yourself first and find out your strengths and weakness. Groom yourself so that your strengths overcome your weakness. Step out and stand out. Never hesitate to take a new step – I just did now to write this. Little steps will take you through the whole journey!
By Tasnim Tarin, HR professional & marketing enthusiast with a global textile manufacturing company