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Do I Need to Hire an Introvert or an Extrovert?


With more and more managers becoming aware of the fact that personality fit is a major component of employee success, discussions about character traits like introversion and extroversion are becoming more common in the workplace. This is especially true in hiring, where managers are constantly on the lookout for additional indicators of whether or not a given candidate might be a good fit for the role.

Unfortunately, many conversations about extroversion and introversion are oversimplified, leaving some people to make snap judgments about job applicants that might be unhelpful, or even altogether misleading. Here are some guidelines for thinking about this topic in your workplace.

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What are introversion and extroversion?

When people think about these two personality types, they often rely on stereotypes: extroverts are loud, outgoing, popular, socially adept, talkative, and cheerful. Introverts are quiet, shy, socially awkward, have few friends, and might be pessimists or show signs of depression. In reality, this doesn’t have much to do with what either personality type is.

What’s energizing?

A better way to conceptualize this is based on what energizes you. Suppose you’re invited to a large party. (Ignore for the moment whether or not you’re generally a fan of large parties, it’s surprisingly not that relevant.) Three hours later, you walk out of the party. Which of these feel more like you?

  • Wow, what a great party! I feel totally energized and I’m sad for it to end. Maybe I should call some friends and see if they’re up for drinks.
  • Wow, what a great party! I’m glad to go home and recover with a good book and some quiet music.

If you think “I’m going to be alone in the office all day tomorrow, I should invite folks over for dinner to blow off some steam afterwards,” you’re probably an extrovert. On the other hand, if you’re more inclined to think “I’m going to be in meetings all day tomorrow, so I should probably let my sister know I’m going to be too wiped out to call her at our usual time,” you probably lean towards introversion.

Some mythbusting:

    • Some introverts are excellent public speakers. There is surprisingly little interaction in a formal presentation, when you think about it.
    • Some extroverts are socially awkward. Just because you like being around people doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
    • Some introverts enjoy networking. They often learn to shine by having one-on-one conversations rather than large-group chats.
  • Some extroverts dislike performing. Hanging out with friends and getting on stage are very different skills.
  • Preference for dogs or cats is not a good indicator of introversion or extroversion. This is no more valid than saying that people who own iguanas are cold-blooded or people who keep snails are slow.
  • Both women and men are extroverts and introverts.

When might it make sense to take introversion or extroversion into account in hiring?

Think beyond job skills and get into the everyday reality of the position for which you’re hiring.

  • Is this a nighttime position where the individual will be alone in the office for much of their shift? This might be a struggle for an extrovert.
  • Does this position involve meeting and greeting a constant stream of new people and addressing their needs? This could be extremely draining for an introvert.
  • Does this position switch back and forth between periods with lots of interaction and periods of solo work? Introversion and extroversion might not be a major factor in success unless it’s of an extreme nature.

What about people who are both?

Most people are fairly moderate on the spectrum of personalities. They like both togetherness and solitude to a degree, while still maintaining a bit of a preference for one or the other. While some people always prefer to work in groups or on their own, they’re not as common as you might think. The term ambivert was coined to describe people right in the middle, who don’t seem to lean either way.

Learn more about hiring for personality.

Download your copy of True Match: Hiring for Personality to get a better idea of how to take personality into account when hiring in a way that is sensible, ethical, and based on actual science.

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