Introvert vs. Extrovert: Who's More Likely to Succeed?

job interview Do you find networking exhausting or exhilarating? Do interviews make you nervous or do you just go in and "wing it"? Do you feel that writing about your accomplishments on a resume makes you boastful, or do you just lack the patience to sit down and write a resume? Your tendencies may be tied to how much of an introvert or extrovert you are. Both styles possess their own strengths and challenges.

AOL jobs recently interviewed Wendy Gelberg, president of Gentle Job Search and author of 'The Successful Introvert,' to learn more about the characteristics of introverts and extroverts.

One style isn't necessarily better than the other; they're just different. But by understanding the challenges and recognizing the strengths of each style, you can manage a more successful job search and improve your overall career management strategy.


Many confuse introversion with shyness. Shyness is discomfort or self-consciousness in the presence of others, usually involving fears of being judged or criticized. Introversion is something else entirely. As described by psychologist Carl Jung, introversion refers to energy flow and the tendency of some people to draw energy from the inner world -- their focus is inward, on ideas and reflection, and they typically seek solitude to recharge their batteries. Many enjoy people and welcome social encounters and aren't shy at all, but too much socializing would be draining for them.

Networking challenges and strengths

The intense socializing and the need to think on your feet quickly that characterizes face-to-face networking, especially in group settings, can be very taxing for introverts.

According to Gelberg, however, "Online networking plays to many of an introvert's strengths; because it's not in real time and it's done through written communication, it gives people an opportunity to think deeply about what they want to say and choose their words carefully before replying. Each interaction seems to require less energy, which means it's possible to have more interactions. In addition, it's possible to reach more people with the same effort than is typically possible with 'live' networking. For example, the 'status bar' on LinkedIn enables people to inform their entire network about something that's professionally relevant. Tweets on Twitter function similarly. Likewise, the 'introduction' feature on LinkedIn makes it much easier to connect with new people than using the telephone."

While Gelberg doesn't recommend that introverts network online exclusively, she does view it as a valuable part of the relationship-building process for introverts.

Interview challenges and strengths

The career management challenges for introverts often show up in the interview process. A day of interviewing can be enervating for anyone, but especially for an introvert. Gelberg states, "Introverts typically prefer to have time to gather their thoughts before jumping into a conversation. This can pose a problem in interviews, where being able to respond quickly is important."

"But introverts often have strong listening skills, which can give them an advantage in interviews. They have the patience to wait to hear the entire question, and the thoughtfulness to consider it thoroughly before answering. Answers are likely to be on point and not excessively rambling. In addition, because of the pleasure they take in contemplating things deeply, they are energized by doing the comprehensive background research that can give them a competitive advantage in all stages of the job search."

Resume-writing challenges and strengths

People often struggle when writing their resumes because they have difficulty articulating and consolidating their value proposition. But many introverts have difficulty writing resumes because they are uncomfortable with self-promotion, and there is a misconception that resumes contain exaggeration and hyperbole, or that they involve bragging.

To counteract that discomfort, Gelberg suggests that introverts focus just on telling the story -- the problem faced, the actions taken, and the results achieved. The message is, "Here are the events and how they unfolded, including my role in the process, and the outcome of the story." Another strategy Gelberg recommends is to focus on the changes that took place between the start of the job and the present, and the individual's role in those changes. Additionally, testimonials from others can provide useful information for resumes to offset the discomfort to self-promote.

Gelberg notes that the process of writing a resume actually draws on some of the strengths of introverts, in that "an effective resume will require some thought and perhaps some research -- one can't just "dash off" a resume and expect good results. The resume needs to contain concrete and quantifiable success stories, and uncovering or remembering those may take some digging."


"Extroverted" doesn't necessarily mean being outgoing, although many extroverts are. As described by psychologist Carl Jung, extroversion refers to energy flow and the tendency of some people to draw energy from the outer world -- their focus is on people and activities around them. When it comes to the core activities involved in a job search, extroverts have key strengths that will serve them well, but they also have challenges associated with their extroverted characteristics. Understanding the strengths and liabilities can improve job effectiveness in job search.

Networking challenges and strengths

The fact that being around people energizes extroverts is a key strength for them in networking activities. Because making conversation comes easily to them, they may enjoy and look forward to the socializing and be more apt to embrace this key job search strategy.

However, despite the ease with which they may mingle, it's important for extroverts to remember to find a good balance between talking and listening and to concentrate on being a resource for others. Because extroverts are stimulated by variety, their conversations in group situations may remain too superficial, as they are drawn to move on to the next new person. Effective networking is measured by the quality of relationships, so extroverts can capitalize on the energy they draw from others by maintaining regular contact with their network and nurturing existing relationships while building new ones.

Interview challenges and strengths

Many extroverts look forward to interviews because they enjoy the opportunity to have a conversation. Their comfort in these situations and their ability to engage others is very much an asset, as they can keep the dialog active and lively. The pitfall for extroverts is becoming overconfident in their verbal skills and, as a result, not taking time to prepare for the interview by anticipating questions and developing -- and even practicing -- answers.

A common characteristic of extroverts is that they "think on their feet" -- that is, they think out loud, figuring out the answer as they go. This trait combined with lack of preparation can lead to unfocused, rambling, and overly long answers that try the patience of the interviewer. Or they provide an answer off the top of their head, and inadvertently say something ill-advised or inappropriate. Or they get uncomfortable with silence, while the interviewer formulates the next question, and they unnecessarily add to an answer that was already complete.

A related concern is a tendency to be so eager to jump in that they speak over the interviewer or don't wait to hear the whole question. The remedy to these potential concerns is simply to do the background work and preparation ahead of time. Develop succinct answers to the commonly asked questions using a device such as the STAR format (S=situation; T=task; A=action; R=result) to give answers a focus and a clear beginning, middle, and end. Practice paraphrasing the interviewer's question as a way to wait until the entire question has been asked.

Resume-writing challenges and strengths

Extroverts may find themselves less motivated for the more solitary activity of resume writing. This task doesn't lend itself to "off the top of the head" answers, but requires more in-depth investigation. A helpful strategy for extroverts is to engage others in the process. For example, extroverts can ask others to help recall key accomplishments.

A conversation with colleagues or friends will play to an extrovert's strengths and will likely generate important success stories to use in the resume. The traditional "P-A-R" format (problem faced, actions taken, and results achieved) will keep the stories focused and keep the resume concise and targeted. Enlisting others can also be valuable in helping to define one's personal brand -- which is an important part of the resume's message, as it differentiates one candidate from another.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

For each number, select either A or B as best describing you.

1. When asked a question,

A. I usually jump right in and start to answer.

B. I usually like to think about it or "chew on it" before I answer.

2. After a stressful day,

A. I generally want to go out with a group of friends to unwind.

B. I generally want to have time to myself to unwind.

3. Which of the following better describes you?

A. I'm rarely at a loss for words.

B. Sometimes I struggle to find the right word or phrase.

4. How do you relate to people?

A. I consider a lot of people to be my friends and make new friends easily.

B. I consider just a few people to be friends (and think of most people as acquaintances) and make new friends gradually.

5. Which of the following better describes the way others view you?

A. Others often see me as a go-getter or a people person.

B. Others often see me as calm or reserved.

Scoring: If you have more A answers than B answers, there's a good chance that you have a preference for extroversion; more B answers than A, a preference for introversion.

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