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As recruiters and hiring managers, we’re continually drawn towards candidates that stand out from the crowd, often because of their charisma, the confidence they lead with, and their ability to persuade us in conversation.  But is it the charm of the extraverted applicant that sometimes has us looking past an amazingly talented introvert?

While I am not expressing that one personality type is better than the other, I do believe that on occasion, the interview process can be biased towards extraverts, and that introverts who do want to compete, have to work harder in the interview process to secure the positions they are a fit for.

Much of this has to do with conditioning.  In a recent Ted Talks lecture: The Power of Introverts,  speaker Susan Cain discussed introverts and their roles as leaders in our society.  Cain notes that we once favored a culture of character, and we have now shifted to favor a culture of action, in which we favor the man of action (aka the salesman) over the man of contemplation.

It seems fitting as recruiters or hiring managers that of course we should be drawn to the man of action, especially as work places continue to innovate, new startup companies are influencing corporate culture with rapid growth and shifts, and the way we interact in business continues to become increasingly more social.

But we forget that the man of contemplation can often steer the course of action in more creative or efficient directions.  After all, while the squeaky wheel generally gets the grease, there is no correlation between being the best speaker and the person who has the best ideas.

Despite this notion, over time, with changes in technology, how we communicate, and the continued rise in social media, we as a society have changed who we view as a role model.  Even our workplaces and educational institutions are shifting to cater to the nature of extraverts with open workspaces, team pods, and group learning.

These changes are by no means bad, as team building and learning social skills will always be important, and even introverts should be challenged to come out of their fortresses of solitude.  But are we unconsciously putting some talented introverts out of the running due to the way we’ve begun looking at candidates who will be the best fit for a particular work environment or role, especially when it comes to leadership positions?

Cain makes note that studies have proven introverts get better grades in school and are generally more knowledgeable, but they are routinely passed over for leadership positions.  She goes on to reference Adam Grant’s research from the Wharton School, stating, “…introverted leaders often deliver better outcomes than extraverts do, because when they are managing proactive employees they’re much more likely to let those employees run with their ideas, whereas an extravert quite unwittingly can get so excited about things that they’re putting their own stamp on things and other people’s ideas might not as easily bubble up to the surface.”

Every workplace needs a balance of personalities in order to cultivate ideas and operate efficiently.  And as members of the community that create those harmonious workforces within each organization, it becomes our responsibility, in part, to make sure we are striking that balance.

We need the magnetism and outgoing nature of the extravert to compliment the creativity and contemplative nature of the introvert in order to achieve the happy middle where each side contributes in their own grand way while at the same time learning and growing from one and other and celebrating their strengths in doing so.

And after Susan Cain’s last call to action of her lecture, she wished to everyone to have, ” the courage to speak softly.”  Well this is one introvert, speaking softly to the talent acquisition and talent management communities and asking you to think about your hiring practices and your workplaces to see if they need a shake up–a shake up to make sure that the right individuals are being given an opportunity to shine in their own light and make a difference in your organization.

I encourage your thoughts and to check out Susan Cain’s lecture for yourself.


Cain, S. (2012, February). Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts on Ted.com.

Grant, A., Gino, F., & Hoffman, D. 2011. Reversing the Extraverted Leadership Advantage: The Role of Employee Proactivity. Academy of Management Journal, Vo.54, No.3, 528-550.

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