Try to see past the neuroses

While an introverted job candidate may let their nerves hinder their performance, it may be worth making the effort to help them overcome their neuroses.

Try to see past the neuroses

In a recent opinion piece, Kazim Ladimeji, director of the Career Café and chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, outlined the case for re-considering introverted job candidates.

While those who succumb to nerves may hinder their performance in the interview, and fail to represent themselves accurately, they may actually be better qualified and better suited to the role than those who don’t. To back up this claim, Ladimeji referred to two interesting pieces of research:

  1. ‘The Downfall of Extroverts and the Rise of Neurotics’:

In this study, Associate Professor Corinne Bendersky of the UCLA School of Management studied the way people’s status changed over time. Bendersky focused on extroverted and neurotic MBA students in her school, assigning each of the 299 students to a five-person study group. She and her colleagues conducted personality assessments on each and, after a week, asked students to rate the status of each member in their group and predict their level of contribution. Unsurprisingly, extroverts were rated highly and their peers had high expectations for them, while neurotics were rated low in status and assigned low expectations.

However, this reversed as time passed. “After working together for 10 weeks on a variety of different projects, the extroverts were perceived by their peers to have contributed less than expected, and they lost status as a result,” Bendersky explained. “And the neurotics were perceived as having contributed more than expected and increased in status as a result.”

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you should only hire introverts, since both contribute something. “Extroverts tend to be much more risk-seeking, and neurotics tend to be much more cautious and risk-averse. So having a balance of those preferences may, overall, improve decision-making.”

  1. ‘Ambiverts’ make the best salespeople:

Associate professor of management, Adam Grant, at Wharton School conducted a study that revealed that extroverts don’t make the best salespeople, as many have long believed. Grant gave personality tests to 340 salespeople and compared their extroversion scores against yearly revenue. Grant found that those who were halfway between extreme extroversion and extreme introversion – what he dubs ‘ambiverts’ – were the best earners. They earned 24% more than introverts and 32% more than extroverts.

Grant thought that this might be because they struck the best balance between talking and listening, while extroverts may be too pushy.

“While you should not hire someone just because they are introvert, equally it does not make sense to overlook someone because their introversion and neuroticism may have affected their presentation,” Ladimeji concluded.

Tips for interviewing nervous job candidates courtesy of Ask a Manager:


  • Be friendly and talk about yourself a little in order to help the candidate relax
  • Exude relaxed body language as well
  • Try to ensure that the conversation is a dialogue, rather than rapid firing questions at the candidate, which can be unnerving
  • You might want to try adopting a sympathetic tone and saying something along the lines of, “You seem nervous! I know how that can be, but don’t worry, there’s no need to be nervous.” If this is said in a kind tone, it can help but, be warned, it might not help with everyone.


Free newsletter

Our daily newsletter is FREE and keeps you up-to-date with the world of HR. Please complete the form below and click on subscribe for daily newsletters from HRD New Zealand.

Recent articles & video

'We are all in this together'

Leaders 'struggling' to connect with teams overseas

Why HR should monitor the company's financial health

Rising Stars 2020 nominations will close this Friday

Most Read Articles

Sistema staff walk off job over COVID -19 concerns

COVID-19: How to boost staff morale

Mental health, COVID-19 and your company