This Is What Happens When Recruiters Make Inclusion Mistakes (And How To Avoid It)

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One of the challenges of being an introvert is that practices of professional recruiters can feel oriented to more extroverted ways. Here are some strategies for being inclusive of both introverts and extroverts during the employee hiring process for the best outcomes for both the organization and applicant.

“Introvert” And “Extrovert” Are Only Personality Preferences:

Introversion and extroversion are innate personality preferences according to Jungian theory and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® frameworks. They indicate the direction and source of our energy. Extroverts have a preference for the outer world and typically charge their batteries through social interaction. Introverts have a preference for the inner world of ideas and feelings and need solitude and quiet to collect their thoughts and refuel. As Jenn Granneman points out, introverts and extroverts are ‘wired differently’ around external rewards. “The introvert’s way isn’t about chasing rewards, but rather about seeking meaning.” Click To Tweet These are just preferences, not behavioral indicators, nor are they extreme in each person. It is more of a spectrum, with most people falling somewhere in between.


The Extrovert Ideal And Recruitment:

So how do these preferences play out in the context of recruitment? Susan Cain in her book, Quiet, talks about The Extrovert Ideal and how there is a general bias in the community towards people who are outgoing and gregarious. With studies showing that one third to a half of the US population are introverts, there are compelling reasons to review recruitment thinking and practices to check how inclusive they are. Many leaders and managers self-identify as extroverts, and there’s a risk that unintended biases can sneak into recruitment strategies for hiring top talent.

Across the spectrum of skills, leaders of staff solutions ideally want to ensure that they’re hiring top talent for any job role in terms of knowledge, skills and experience. But how do you ensure that the way you manage your hiring practices is inclusive, and enabling all applicants to show their best potential for the role?

Inclusive Approaches In Recruitment Strategies:

Inclusive approaches for recruiting candidates of both introverted and extroverted personality types need to be informed by:

  1. Reflecting on the job roles for which we are recruiting and checking for any unintentional bias in perceptions on the role itself.

  2. Rethinking how recruitment practices can make space for both introverted and extroverted preferences through a mix of assessment methods and styles.

  3. Implementing actionable hiring practices that are more inclusive in order to get the best from all candidates. The point is hiring good employees. Recruiting candidates who are well-suited to their roles, and setting everyone up for success often requires harmonizing with the preferences of top talent, and playing to their strengths. Of course this must be within realistic alliance of the position. However, to keep it in mind throughout, is one of the best ways to recruit employees.

Reflecting On The Actual Duties Performed In Job Roles:

It’s important to start with the job description of the position available, so we can be sure there is no inherent bias in the personal requirements. This can be challenging because some jobs seem to be inherently linked to particular character traits (like being “outgoing”) . It’s vital to have a really good look at these assumptions.

Sales is one area that has become traditionally connected with, and impacted by, perceptions about introversion and extroversion. Here are some comments on a current website:

“For example, there are some jobs which have become synonymous with extrovert personalities. Sales is one example, it is difficult to imagine a successful sales person who is not naturally extroverted. The qualities associated with this personality trait: friendliness, gregariousness, assertiveness, cheerfulness, and a high activity level are all qualities associated with successful sales people.

For employers to look for these qualities when recruiting sales people makes sense and is exactly what you would expect. However, for almost all jobs, not just sales, employers prefer extroverts over introverts.”

The reasons given for this preference are firstly, around teamwork and the need to get on with people, and secondly, that people may become leaders in the future so it’s not just about technical skills.

This all appears to be based on the assumption that you need to be extroverted to be able to sell, to work as part of a team, or to be a leader.  Having performed all of these skills successfully as an introvert, I believe we need to challenge these types of stereotypes in recruitment strategies and hiring questions when thinking about positions as related to psychological traits.

Challenging Stereotypes About Key Job Functions:

For example, in terms of sales, Daniel H. Pink explains in his book, To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others’, we are all in sales:

“People are now spending about 40 percent of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling— persuading, influencing, and convincing others in ways that don’t involve anyone making a purchase.

The art of sales is a little more complex than just being outgoing. Click To Tweet It’s about influencing, listening and understanding others’ needs, areas in which introverts are often naturally strong.”

In terms of teams, work units benefit from a mix of complementary personality types Click To Tweet to be able to achieve organizational goals effectively. As EY points out in The New Rules of Leadership:

“Diverse groups tend to outperform homogeneous groups, even if the members of the latter group are more capable. Furthermore, diversity fires up innovation.”

And whilst there may appear to be more extroverted managers and leaders, introverted preferences, such as a desire for solitude, can be integral to breakthrough leadership skills such as clarity, emotional balance and moral courage. Lead Yourself First, a recent book by Raymond M Kethledge and Michael S. Erwin, provides case studies of famous leaders that describe how leadership and solitude are strongly aligned.

As these examples show, when recruiting candidates, it’s important to reflect on and be aware of any implicit bias based on personality preferences for either introversion or extroversion as they impact on job roles.

Rethinking Hiring Practices To Make Space For Preferences:

One way to promote inclusion when you need to find employees, is to ensure that the processes involve a mix of talent acquisition solutions that reflect both introverted and extroverted preferences. The opportunity to assess top talent through writing, interviews, references, group contexts, 1:1 discussion and practical skills-assessment can all be considered to ensure that there is not a bias to one preference. It’s a more holistic approach to find the best career match.

Even though there may be a mix of methods, face-to-face methods can somehow feel (and be treated as) pre-eminent, while written aspects can seem secondary. It’s important to carefully consider the balance of all assessment inputs, not just the ones that seem more overtly influential.

It’s also important for personnel agencies and hiring managers to appropriately reflect the job role across its gamut. If a role is primarily about research and writing, how are we assessing this: By talking about it or by assessing research and writing ability? If it’s about training, are we assessing all aspects of this skill and not just the standing up and talking part? If it’s about leadership, are we also looking at self-leadership and how the leader recharges, clarifies their visions, thoughts and writing, in addition to how well they can talk to a room of people? Lead Yourself First provides ample evidence that we certainly should be looking at all these areas of leadership.

Challenging stereotypes about job roles during the hiring process can be tackled effectively by rethinking our assumptions behind the role, and how we assess its competencies.

Inclusive Recruitment Strategies For Getting The Best From Introverts:

Given the orientation towards the extroverted end of the spectrum, it’s worthwhile reflecting on inclusive strategies to enable both introverts and extroverts to do their best when applying for a job.

Inclusive strategies that are great recruitment tools:

  • Developing an understanding of personality type and preferences (especially the impacts of introversion and extroversion in the workplace) so you can bring the best out of all employees. This applies to both hiring practices and wider organizational contexts.

  • Allowing a mix of recruitment techniques that will suit both types of preferences, noting that quiet influencing strategies include: writing, activities that involve preparation, focused conversation and engaged listening. (See this article for more on how introverts can make the most of recruitment opportunities.)

  • Considering options that allow for preparation beforehand, even if brief, so that introverts can showcase their more reflective, analytical skills rather than being forced to think on their feet.

  • If assessing in group contexts, note that it’s not just about who talks the most, but about how valuable the contribution is. Introverts, for example, may take the role of summing up a conversation or providing a single break-through idea at the end, rather than participating through-out the conversation. As Susan Cain points out, “…research shows there’s no correlation between the most talkative person in the room and the best ideas. Click To Tweet

  • Focus on telling success stories which can be really powerful for all candidates, and help to provide a more level playing field, as Mark Bregman suggests in: Are Recruiters Biased Against Introverts.

At the end of the day, the employee hiring process should be an opportunity for people to showcase their skills in a way that best enables them to gain the position. The organization that is recruiting candidates wants to find the person who will meet their needs across all aspects of behavior. It’s important to ensure that the immediate contexts of hiring practices are not a barrier between these desired outcomes. Let’s work to ensure all people are given the chance to present their competencies, experience, and qualities in the most positive light, and bring out their potential to maximum effect.

Are you an Introvert that’s had difficulty with the hiring process? Do you have any bad examples or amazing tips on how to deal with a process that favors extroverts? We’d love to hear about it. Comment below and connect with us on Social Media!


3 thoughts on “This Is What Happens When Recruiters Make Inclusion Mistakes (And How To Avoid It)

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