Human Resources News & Insights

Recruiting: Take care not to overlook the quiet candidates

Everybody seems to visualize that next great hire as a dynamic, outgoing go-getter whose presence fills the room. Not necessarily so, says guest poster Krista Williams

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I am an extrovert. I ask questions. I share experiences. I am usually the loudest voice in the room even when I try to sit on my hands (I am Italian) and not speak. I’m like a bottle of champagne trying not to pop my cork. I can start a conversation with anyone and figure out a sustainable topic that we can chat about for an extended, almost ridiculous, period of time.

I have colleagues who become my work partners. They’re teammates that I can bounce ideas off, or have them review reports, documents, emails, or agendas or even just hear me vent — and I, in turn, return the favor.

Interestingly, in two of my most successful work partnerships, the individuals’ personalities have been the opposite of mine. They are introverts.

Introverts are often thought of as less desirable than extroverts in the workplace and hiring managers are no exception to falling victim to this myth.

Just because someone is quiet doesn’t mean they aren’t friendly. And just because someone doesn’t join in conversations readily, volunteer their life story, or seems to want more time to think through things before providing a response or opinion, doesn’t mean that their contribution is less valuable.

The value of the introvert in the workplace is immeasurable. They are patient. They dig deep and only speak when there is something of value to say. They are the backbone of many initiatives and provide private insight that they would not typically share in a group setting.

At the same time, they’re not afraid to do public speaking and they have very strong opinions when you ask them.

There is a misconception that introverts are passive. Ha! I consider them to be more like silent assassins  (in a good way, of course). They work better one on one, behind the scenes, through a series of conversations and exchanges to gain commitment, partnership, and agreement.

They often know more of what is going on around them than extroverts because they have taken the time to gather and listen to more information before stating an opinion.

Team balance is key

In my experience with a Fortune 15 company, my closest work partner was the introverted yin to my extroverted yang. This brings me to a key point that many hiring managers overlook: the value of balancing teams.

In sales, retail, customer-focused teams especially, there is a tendency to think everyone should be an extrovert. No. You need to balance your team with introverts. Why? Because a balanced team will have broader perspectives and more creative ideas, and will find a holistic way to tackle challenges and address opportunities.

There is a variety of work to be done in every team. Balancing the team with introverts and extroverts helps ensure that all team members have the opportunity to do work they most naturally gravitate towards and that they are naturally a good fit for.

For example, introverts might be more than happy to take on work that doesn’t require much interaction with customers, while extroverts may very well be happy to be on the phone all day. The more aligned your people are with their natural inclinations and talents, the better the work will flow.

Interviewing tips

It’s true that introverts often do not volunteer a lot of information during interviews. This doesn’t mean they don’t have the experience or the skills to fit your team. Ask introverts how they go about making decisions, how they feel about working with people and what role do they play on teams.

Inquire as to how they get buy-in, what projects have they led, and what role they played. By asking insightful questions and listening to how they respond, you can tap into great areas of strengths that could balance the extroverted people on your team. Don’t overlook the value of introverts. They may be exactly what your team is missing.

Krista Williams is a strategic director for Seven Step RPO, a leading recruitment process outsourcing firm based in Boston. 

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