Do Hiring Managers bypass Introverts for Extroverts?

A Huffington Post article entitled “13 Habits of Exceptionally Likeable People” (http://tinyurl.com/psczejd) listed these characteristics:

  1. They ask questions
  2. They put away their phones
  3. They are genuine
  4. They don’t pass judgment
  5. They don’t seek attention
  6. They are consistent
  7. They use positive body language
  8. They leave a strong first impression
  9. They greet people by name
  10. They smile
  11. They know when to open up
  12. They know who to touch
  13. They balance passion and fun

Most of these habits could be found in extroverts; some align with introvert personalities. Clearly all of these habits are highly prized by many if not most hiring managers. In fact, personality factors appear to account for 20 to 30% of the variance in work performance according to occupational psychological research.

I was once part of a team charged with hiring a couple of applications engineers who would be providing phone/email/on-site customer support. One particular candidate was not shy about expressing his preference to support customers solely through email. “I’m not a people person” he told us. He had an impressive résumé but his introversion was expressed not only with his words, but by his attitude, his body language, and manner of dress. We passed on hiring him.

In an academic paper (2005) entitled, “Predictors of Objective and Subjective Career Success: A Meta-Analysis,” the researchers/authors suggested that the breadth and quality of one’s external social network may influence the type of career experience an individual enjoys. Research on the “boundaryless career” suggests that the presence of strong external networks are indeed related to career success (there’s also an organization contribution component). Generally speaking, extroverts are more likely than introverts to have strong external networks. The authors state that while career success is partly due to merit and job competency, another variable is obtaining organizational “sponsorship” that often reflects a more political explanation for career success. Other authors cited in the research report that individuals have to be similar to gatekeepers (managers), display a positive outlook, differentiate themselves from others, and engage in self-promotion in order to move ahead in their careers.

Not exactly the domain of introverts.

Susan Cain gave a TED talk (http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts) whereby the presentation tagline read, “In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.” Cain states that many successful achievers (in the corporate world) who are self-proclaimed introverts have learned to manage themselves as they extend themselves out of their comfort zone.

Well, that’s why “likeability” that I so often write about is also known as “impression management” and is most prevalent in the hiring process. Even extroverts have to gauge the strength and direction of their interactions, depending on the perceived reward (a job offer, a marriage proposal, a contract negotiation). As long as many if not most hiring managers continue to rely to varying degrees on intuition, gut instinct, and personal chemistry when making a hiring decision, people will have to stretch (or contract!!) themselves as necessary and as the situation dictates to remain viable candidates in the eyes of the hiring manager.

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