Most everyone experiences some anxiety during a job interview. A panel interview, where you’re facing two or more critical decision-makers, can cause extreme stress and turn the interview into a grueling encounter — especially if you have a shy, or introverted, personality.
“To an introvert the stress is magnified and the fear they experience may result in cancelled interviews or poor performance,” says Carol Caico, PhD, CS, NP, an assistant professor of nursing, New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions. “A certain amount of anxiety is normal, but when it interferes with a goal … it becomes detrimental.”
Plan and practice
Instead of becoming unglued or convinced your interview performance will underwhelm instead of impress, take time to review your strengths and practice your responses, hiring managers and nursing leaders say. You can deliver a strong impression even if the beginning of the interview was shaky.
“It is an extroverted world of work and it’s hard to get an introvert, or shy person, to come in and dazzle an interview panel,” says Rebecca Freeman, chief nursing information officer and the manager of nursing informatics at Medical University of South Carolina.
“If I could say one thing to the folks who struggle with this format, it would be to really step up when they are asked ‘What are your strengths’ or ‘Is there anything you would like to add or ask?’ This is when they need to talk about their strength of character.”
Introverts should talk about “their contemplative approach, their steadiness, their quiet fortitude and the fact their approach to work and caring for patients may not be well-suited for a panel interview, but it will be exceptional as part of the mix on a given unit,” Freeman says.
To reduce anxiety and help you do well, consider taking these steps:
- Build your confidence by researching the company and position.
- Prepare some conversation starters to help you engage in small talk.
- Plan how you will market yourself. Think about the qualities that are associated with introverts “that may be viewed as weaknesses and how they can be strengths,” says Freeman. For example, you could say, ‘‘I’m quiet because I’m thinking of solutions, not because I’m not paying attention or have nothing to contribute.’”
- Prepare for the interview by practicing with a friend. If your anxiety is severe, consider professional help. “A therapist would work on relaxation techniques and cognitive therapy,” says Caico. “With help, the undesired behavior can change.”
- Rehearse. For introverts, “practice is even more essential,” says Pam Treister, MSN, CNS, RN, clinical instructor at the department of nursing, New York Institute of Technology School of Health Professions. “If necessary use a tape recorder to practice answering questions.”
How to Come Out of Your Shell at Interview Time
An interview is the time for you to “talk yourself up” and “shine the spotlight on your talents.” But what if you’re naturally shy and have a hard time striking up conversations with strangers, even if there’s a job on the line?
Here are a few tips for introverts to overcome hurdles that may hold them back in a job interview:
Prepare in advance
Preparation is important for everyone. Identify the key themes you want to discuss and prepare stories and points in advance. Practice for every part of the job interview: from introducing yourself confidently, to answering questions and establishing next steps after the interview. You’ll feel more comfortable and more confident.
Prepare for the unknown
They say that extroverts ‘talk to think’ and introverts ‘think to talk’. If you’re an introvert, you may have a hard time answering unanticipated questions. That’s why you should prepare to handle surprise. First, repeat the question and gather your thoughts. Second, comment on the question. (Is it particularly important in your field of work?) Then answer the question and, if necessary, bring the topic back to your key interview themes.
Leverage your strengths
When it comes to being observant, listening attentively and offering options, introverts tend to outshine extroverts. Use these traits to your advantage. While you’re listening to your interviewer, identify her priority areas and focus your responses there. Show your genuine interest in the organization, the interviewer and the position.
Studies show that organizations that value both introverts and extroverts perform better and make better decisions. They need you, so shine outside of your shell in your interview.