Avoiding bias against introverts in your interviews

February 1, 2023 Updated: January 31, 2024 6 min read

Every recruiter looks forward to finding the best candidate to fill a role. But did you know that it’s possible to overlook the ‘right’ candidate due to personality bias?

While interviews are a great way to get a feel for a candidate’s personality and ability to express themselves, it’s also important to consider hidden abilities and experience, especially if the candidate is an introvert.

The widely publicized Ted Talk by Susan Cain points out the cultural preference we have toward extroverted qualities while stigmatizing introverted ones.

This article dives deeper into how conscious and unconscious preferences interfere with the interview process and poses a disadvantage to introverted candidates. We also highlight best practices for interviewing to avoid discrimination.

Let’s get started.

Conscious and Unconscious Interview Bias

Even the most experienced interviewers may fall victim to personality-type bias when interviewing job candidates. Here are a few ways in which interviews may be subject to unconscious extroversion bias:

Social-desirability bias

This happens when the candidate does not provide factual answers but socially acceptable answers. Extroverts tend to exhibit social-desirability bias more often than introverts because they are outspoken and tell the recruiter what they think fits best to secure a job. Social-desirability bias can lead people to be highly convincing, resulting in affinity bias.

Contrast Effect

The contrast effect happens when the recruiter compares job candidates to each other rather than the actual job requirements.

Candidate comparison can easily result in interview bias and favor extroverts. Instead, recruiters must assess a candidate’s performance against the job requirements. In the end, what matters is whether the candidate is a good fit for the job.

Inconsistency

Interview inconsistency happens when the interviewer uses different questions to interview candidates for the same job position. This is common when the interview does not have a good structure for the interview.

When this happens, it’s possible to leave out candidates who have the potential simply because they were asked different questions and were therefore measured against different standards. Recruiters should conduct a structured interview where the questions are predetermined.

Halo/Horn Effect

The Halo effect happens when the interviewer notices one good trait from a candidate and uses that one trait to favor the candidate. The Horn effect is the opposite, whereby the interviewer might notice one negative trait and use it to disqualify the candidate.

Every person has their strengths and weaknesses, and if you use only one trait to make conclusions, chances are you might lock out potential candidates.

Introverts & Extroverts: Each Has Strengths and Weaknesses

Think about your current employees. You may be able to easily identify the extroverts and introverts among them. But often, you may not be able to tell clearly because personality exists on a spectrum. Each personality type has distinct advantages and disadvantages, which you should keep in mind when hiring.

That’s why it’s important to prioritize other factors, such as the skills to perform the work, experience, and much more, rather than hiring for personality alone.

Conducting Fair Interviews

The interview process can be challenging because you deal with people of varying personalities. However, the process is much easier when you know how to handle people of every personality.

On the surface, extroverts may be easier to interview. So, how do you handle introverts well to ensure your final results will not be biased?

Here are a few things to keep in mind before interviewing introverts:

  • Skip the Small Talk.

Generally, extroverts are more inclined to take small talk in stride. That’s a great thing, but it doesn’t mean everyone thrives under situations that require small talk and forging fast connections. Those who are more introverted or even neurodiverse might take longer to warm up to new people, and it doesn’t mean they cannot make warm, friendly team members.

  • They May Sell Themselves Short.

Yes, introverts may be less inclined to talk about themselves and their achievements. As such, they may often undersell themselves even in interviews. They might therefore not tell you everything you need to know about them. This does not mean they don’t like the job or are unwilling to talk about themselves.

  • They Take Longer To Answer.

An introvert may take longer to answer a question compared to an extrovert. This is because introverts tend to collect their thoughts first before responding. Be sure to allow an introverted candidate enough time to process their answer.

  • They Don’t Entertain Fluff.

An introverted candidate is more inclined to provide direct answers without adding excess information. On the other hand, Extroverts tend to be more free-flowing in their responses and end up sharing more details, background, or information. Take note that due to this, you might walk away from an interview with an extrovert knowing a bit more about them, but that doesn’t mean they are more qualified or interesting. It just means introverts might take a little longer to get to know.

How to Interview Introverts Effectively

Here are helpful tips for interviewing introverted candidates:

Don’t Judge Quickly.

Take notes on a candidate’s skills and qualifications during the interview and don’t be quick and judge and disqualify the candidates based on energy or talkativeness. After the interview, you can compare the qualifications conveyed in the interview against the core job criteria.

Be Patient.

As mentioned earlier, an introverted candidate may take a longer time to answer. Be patient and give them some space to think.

Ask Many Questions.

An introverted candidate will most likely tell you what you have asked without adding more details. It’s, therefore, up to you as the interviewer to ask as many questions as possible to get the information you need. By asking many questions, you ensure you know everything about the candidate to make an informed decision.

Use Structured Interviews.

It’s critical to have a structured interview process to allow everyone to demonstrate their skills and capabilities equally. Stick to the plan. If you have fifteen questions, ensure you ask every candidate those fifteen questions, regardless of their personality type or other factors.

Final Remarks

Do not hire a candidate based on how quiet or loud they may be. Instead, focus on their skills and capabilities to determine if they would be valuable to your company.

Avoid unstructured interviews because they often veer off into common areas of interest and experience unrelated to the job. As a result, unconscious bias roams free, making hiring decisions based on sociability, affinity, and “culture fit” rather than qualification and expertise.

Adopting a structured interview process allows you to assess all candidates against the same criteria and make consciously inclusive decisions.

Scot

Scot is a successful HR technology entrepreneur and advocate for conscious inclusion. Passionate about helping others succeed, he’s committed to improving the hiring process for employers and job-seekers every step of the way.

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