Introverts and Job Interviews

I am a person so I need a job. I have strengths, I have weaknesses, I have good days and bad.  Sometimes I impress the heck out of people and sometimes I make mistakes.  If I do make mistakes, I try like heck to fix them, all is good and life goes on. I come back tomorrow and do it all over again.  I’m not into office politics, girls’ lunches or gossip.  I have always gone to work simply to work. I get along with people but pretty much just interact enough to get my work done.

I finally took the time to get a degree after all of these years so I’d have a piece of paper to show I can do more than ‘Secretary’.  Except that I’m not sure I can.  I’m not sure the college credits I have actually mean anything other than, “Hey, I finally reached a goal.”  I took tests at a staffing agency recently, the results of which indicated to me that I have not learned nearly enough in these introductory crash courses I’ve taken at UMA to do what they told me I’d be prepared to do.

Here I am applying for fancy-sounding jobs.  Part of me had this trumped up view of myself and my “skills”  thinking that going back to college at my age in addition to my past work experience would show my drive and determination to succeed through continuous self-improvement. Then part of me feels I have a case of Imposter syndrome and I wonder what the heck I think I’m doing applying for fancy-sounding jobs anyway.  Me? A “professional”? Ha. I’m still just that timid pizza counter girl in the 90’s messing up orders and spilling stuff.  I have no business wanting to do better in life.  What am I thinking?

So today I was called out.  They found out I’m an imposter.  I’m unqualified to design websites, to code them or – heck – even manage the projects and be the liaison between clients and web developers because I don’t have experience telling people what to do and when to have it done or managing budgets (except at home, where I’m more “The Boss” than Bruce Springsteen).  All I have experience with is scheduling appointments (much more than that as my resume indicates).  After the interview of course, I came up with a few examples where I have actually had to tell people when I need something done, and follow up and get updates from them.  Of course, always AFTER the interview.

I made the mistake of mentioning I’m an introvert as I was beginning to explain some of my good qualities and strengths.  She said, “You’re not an introvert.”  Oh, okay. When I’m aware I’m supposed to be extroverted and personable to impress someone – and I get nervous – I get loud, chatty and funny. Keeping you laughing is just a deflection. It’s a coping mechanism.  Underneath that, I feel intimidated and am unable to verbally sell myself face-to-face so I use humor.  Trust me.  I’m much better at expressing myself in print, see?  I have the written communication skills down.  I think.  I don’t know.  Maybe that’s just my crazy perception, too. Honestly, I tend to overcompensate. I overdo it and leave feeling a bit ditzy.  (*Update:  Since then, I had another interview elsewhere and was the complete opposite and probably seemed completely disinterested in the job even though it was the one I really wanted.)

The thing is, I was told “you’re no introvert” but then in the next breath, I was made to feel like I’m too much of an introvert for the job, and am asked why I would want to put myself in a position like that.  I was not convincing and her doubt and lack of confidence in my abilities was palpable.  I’m pretty sure my face turned red. I had nothing to say.  I didn’t even defend myself.  More importantly, I wasn’t able to explain why I was the best candidate for the job.  Because I wasn’t, and I knew it.

In the past, I have purposefully thrown myself into situations and positions where I’ve had to talk to people and come out of my shell.  It’s easier to do in a situation where you have sort of a script like a job waiting on customers or patient intake where the questions you have to ask are on a form or where you’re well versed in the answers to the questions people typically ask when they call the office.  It’s improv and small talk that I’m not good at and detest, and interviews where the unknown questions and answers are about myself.  I clearly need to get to know myself better so I’m less inclined to give other people the opportunity to tell me who or what I am.

And let me just say that extrovert and introvert are not good vs. bad or normal vs. abnormal.  I resent introverts being seen as the people with the personality flaws that need fixing.  Unfortunately, the whole interview process is meant for extroverts.  If someone overlooks an introvert’s interviewing ineptitude and simply judges by the information in their resume and from their stellar references, they may find the introvert to be one the best employees, able to focus and get their work done without constant chatter and without needing constant direction.

Laurie Frisbey

About Laurie Frisbey

Laurie Frisbey is the mom of a college graduate, a teenager and a preteen with special needs. She has been an administrative assistant, but is now a SAHM and full-time college student (third attempt) . She is about to embark on a brand new career in CIS at the age of 42.