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Avoid Overlooking Great Candidates – Just Because They Are Introverts

Posted by: Karen Booher on October 17th, 2022

If hiring managers and recruiters are completely honest, many might admit they lean towards more extroverted job candidates. A recent article by Arlene S. Hirsch with SHRM (The Society for Human Resources Management) sheds light on this interesting subject.

Many hiring managers base their decisions primarily on “likeability”, according to research conducted by Lauren Rivera, a professor of management and organizational behavior at Northwestern University. Simply put, people prefer hiring people they like, regardless of the candidates’ other qualifications (or lack thereof).

“Many candidates aren’t making it through the hiring process to get the jobs they’re qualified for because they don’t interview in a bubbly, enthusiastic manner,” said Cynthia Trivella, a managing partner at TalentCulture, a virtual HR marketing and communications firm in Cincinnati. “If introverted candidates aren’t able to confidently share their accomplishments, they’re likely to be overlooked for positions in which they would thrive. The costs to our organizations of this lost talent are staggering to consider.”

What is the Meaning of Introvert?

People tend to associate introversion with shyness. This actually is a misunderstanding of the true nature of introversion, which is more about energy than social skills. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist who first coined the terms of introversion and extroversion, identified that introverts gain energy through solitude, while extroverts gain energy by spending time with other people.

According to Lauren Van Duyn, a recruitment manager at Workhuman in Framingham, Massachusetts, “Many recruiters equate a lack of [social] energy with a lack of interest, when all it really means is that the candidate may be quieter and more reserved in interviews.” She and her colleagues train recruiters and hiring managers to recognize their own biases and refocus their attention on job qualifications rather than on candidates’ personalities.

Suggestions On How To Avoid Likeability Bias

An objective, evidence-based hiring process can be an effective way to minimize biases and limit impulsive decision-making, according to Scott Sessions, CEO of TalVista, a San Diego-based HR tech company. He recommends optimizing job descriptions to focus on the best indicators of job success and then developing questions to assess the candidate’s knowledge and competency.

It’s alright to venture to some questions outside of just the job to help you get to know candidates, but don’t go too far. Trivella suggests “ask a candidate a question that encourages them to talk about something that is interesting and meaningful to them.” For example, an introvert may become quite vocal when asked about their decision to pursue their particular career path but clam up when asked non-career-related questions.

“Make sure you are truly assessing the candidate’s qualifications for the job, and not their personal circumstances,” Van Duyn says.

Structuring a Successful Interview Process that is Flexible and Inclusive

Let candidates know what to expect with each round of interviews so they can mentally prepare, and there are no unexpected surprises. Inform them of who they will be meeting with, their title, and how long they should expect each meeting to be. Extroverted candidates may be able to “go with the flow” easier than their introverted competition, but both types will benefit from having this information in advance of the interview.

To save candidates from having to return to the company for multiple interviews, many companies have candidates meet with multiple staff in back-to-back interviews on the same day, or in a group interview setting. Although a group interview may be time efficient, it can also overwhelm an introverted candidate.

If the candidates are meeting with decision-makers and potential colleagues separately, consider asking them if they prefer to be scheduled back-to-back on the same day, or to spread the interviews out over the course of a few days.

To ensure the same playing field and to be able to objectively compare candidates, questions posed to each candidate should be the same. If interviews with multiple internal staff are conducted separately, be sure to align the interviewer’s questions with their specific experience and expertise. Don’t waste candidates’ time with each interviewer repeating the same questions, which can create a negative interview experience.

Evaluating the Interviews, and Making a Decision

Sessions recommends that all interviewers complete independent evaluations of candidates at the end of each interview to assess how their skills and experience align with the job requirements before getting feedback from the other interviewers.

“Don’t compare notes until you’ve formed your own independent evaluation in order to avoid groupthink,” he said. “Then you can come together to discuss what you learned and make a good hiring decision.”


SHRM HR Daily Newsletter, 10/6/2022. “How To Create an Introvert-Friendly Hiring Process“, by Arlene S. Hirsch, October 6, 2022.

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