Interviewing Strategies for the Shy Person

Learning Effective Nonverbal Behavior

Young man nervously sitting on couch
••• Adam Blasberg/Photolibrary/Getty Images

As a shy person, the thought of interviewing for an internship or a job may create extreme anxiety, even if you’re just thinking about what you might say at the interview. You may think to yourself, “how can I possibly talk about myself in a positive light when I really have nothing to say.” The truth is that there are many advantages to being shy which can be very helpful for an internship or job interview. You can also find more tips in the article “How to Answer the Tell Me a Little About Yourself Interview Question.”

Interviewing is usually a daunting situation for anyone but for someone who tends to be on the shy side in social situations, just the thought of speaking to someone about their knowledge, skills, and previous academic and professional experiences can be extremely challenging and even a little bit scary.

The good news is that there are strategies you can use to help prepare yourself before going into any interview. These strategies can help change your perception of the situation and help you prepare so that you’re bound to get a more positive result. Many interviews fail because of a lack of effective communication.

As an interviewee, two things you need to consider are your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. It’s extremely important that you understand and master how you come across to other people. It is your interactions with the interviewer that will determine the end result. Since first impressions are usually made within the first 60 seconds of any interaction, it’s key that your physical appearance, confidence, and nonverbal behavior form a positive response. The first, but also the last 60 seconds of any interview is critical – so using those two minutes to wow the employer can increase your chances of being selected for the internship or the job.

How to Impress an Employer at the Beginning and End of Any Interview

First off it’s important to focus on your nonverbal behavior. Nonverbal behavior can either make or break an interview even before saying a word. It is often nonverbal behavior that speaks the loudest while it’s something we may be least aware of when preparing for an interview. Shy people tend to look down or fidget. Don't do that. Do this instead:

Top Five Nonverbal Behaviors for Successful Interviewing

  1. Dress for Success First and foremost, if an applicant shows up for an interview poorly groomed and wearing street clothes, there’s usually nothing that that will help change the interviewer’s first impression. It’s important to understand the company environment to decide on the appropriate dress, In addition to dress and grooming, attention to detail is important as well. It includes well-manicured fingernails, brushed hair, polished shoes, little jewelry, and little perfume. Any type of body art or tattoos should also be downplayed or concealed as much as possible.
  1. Make Direct Eye Contact Being able to look someone directly in the eye when speaking shows confidence and creates credibility in what you have to say. Have you ever spoken to someone who seems distracted and fails to maintain eye contact when they are speaking? How did you feel? Usually, a lack of direct eye contact when listening or speaking leaves the other person feeling disconnected and with a sense that the person lacks confidence and an ability to stand by their convictions. It can also make the other person doubt what you have to say and question your skills and ability to do the job since you fail to look them in the eye when speaking. Maintaining direct eye contact can be easy to learn once you are aware of its importance. To ensure that you are looking someone in the eye, try asking a trusted family member or friend how you’re doing.
  1. Good Posture Maintaining good posture throughout the interview shows confidence in yourself and interest in what the other person has to say. Again, like direct eye contact, good posture is mainly about awareness and understanding its importance. Leaning forward slightly also shows the interviewer that you are engaged in the conversation and interested in learning more about the position and the company.Facial Expressions One of the first pieces of advice I give when helping someone prepare for an interview is - don’t forget to smile. Smiling shows a sense of confidence and also shows the employer that you really want the job. A good sense of humor can also be very appealing, but it’s important to take the interviewer’s lead and avoid telling any jokes.
    1. Appropriate Body Language Small hand gestures and movement of the body are things to consider when interviewing for a job. Some people tend to be more expressive than others, but the key here is to use adequate hand gestures and body movements that will not overwhelm the interviewer.

    The key to good interviewing is practice, practice, practice! By being aware of the ”Top Five Nonverbal Behaviors for Successful Interviewing,” even individuals who tend to be a little bit on the shy side can master these behaviors to ensure a successful interview. Mock interviews can also be very helpful when preparing for an actual interview.