It doesn’t matter how good a candidate looks on paper (or screen), what happens in the interview makes a bigger impact. We want to know how it feels to interact with these paper applicants to get a real feel of who they are and how they’ll work with others. That’s why the interview is often the tipping point for applicants.
And because we’re human, it’s natural to click with people who can instantly connect with others (and usually this happens more quickly with extroverts who are comfortable talking to pretty much anybody). Introverts who usually are nervous—and perhaps whose sentences don’t come out quite right—can get overlooked. Even if they’re the most qualified for the job.
One study done by UCLA (based on its own MBA students) showed that most people considered extroverts—those who stated they “liked to have people around [them]”—were considered better work contributors, while introverts—those who felt tense more often—were assumed to not contribute much. The long-term study showed that the extroverts actually contributed less than anticipated while the introverts contributed quite a bit more. So those applicants who stand out more in the interview may often be less effective than they make you believe—especially when it comes to a team setting.
Frankly, it’s hard to distinguish good “gut” feelings that arise from having an easy conversation with an applicant. Here are five questions to ask yourself about every applicant to make sure you’re choosing the right applicant—not just the most outgoing:
1. Is the candidate just nervous? Or is this applicant a socially awkward person who will make team members uncomfortable to work with? I think one of the most important things you can do to determine this is to get the applicant comfortable and relaxed. Offer the applicant a bottle of water; make sure the seating is comfortable. Then start off the conversation (note I said, “conversation” not interview) by asking some questions that aren’t related to the job or its function. Smile and make sure they know you’re interested in them as people, not just job fillers. After the interview, check references so you can learn how the applicant really functions in a workplace setting. Also, you can check out their profiles on social media to learn even more.
2. Is the position better suited for an introvert or extrovert? Let’s face it: Some jobs are more suited for different personalities. I think of developers as more introverted because they focus on writing code for long stretches. However, that doesn’t mean that someone who is extroverted can’t do the job. In the same vein, just because someone is more introverted, it doesn’t mean they can’t talk well with others. It just might take them some time to warm up. Consider the position but give yourself wiggle room.
3. Is the applicant a team player? Of course you want to hire someone who has the skills necessary to do the job, but you can never underestimate the power of teamwork. Being an effective member of a team trumps any individual work. How does the applicant refer to previous work? Does s(he) take all the credit and say “I did this” or does s(he) say “we” when referring to previously accomplished work? “Teamwork . . . is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
4. What kind of personality will complement the existing team? Really think about the people you have on the team already. Do you have a lot of the same type of personalities? Where do you see holes that need to be filled? If you have a team full of introverts, an extrovert might be your choice. “…the only way to create a team that’s worth more than the sum of its individual contributors is to select members on the basis of personality, soft skills, and values.” Which begs another question: Is this person also a good culture fit?
5. What is the applicant’s skill set? Skills tests don’t care whether people are extroverts or introverts; they tell you if the applicant has the right skills. That’s why they’re a great idea so you can look past all the noise to find out which applicants really know their stuff. You’ll still need to consider other factors, of course, but this is a great way to evaluate for skills.
“Extraverts and introverts each bring unique gifts to the workplace.” Remember, it’s about adding a contributing member to your team; rarely is an employee’s work a solo effort. These questions can help you keep it all in perspective when you need help choosing the right balance for your team.