Identifying as an introvert or an extrovert is a brief way to express a lot about who you are. It’s often a central component of personality assessments, and people tend to wear their label proudly. And while many personality tests used for pre-employment screening measure a candidate’s level of extroversion or introversion, there are a lot of misconceptions about how these traits should be interpreted when making your hiring decisions. In order to get to the heart of how these descriptors relate to job fit, it’s helpful to first understand what they’re actually evaluating.
The way that personality tests define these traits sometimes runs counter to the way we think about them in our everyday lives. For example, “introvert” is sometimes used as a synonym for a “wallflower,” but being shy and being introverted aren’t the same thing. Instead, people who are more introverted simply “recharge” by spending time alone. They may feel drained after spending time in large groups and need some time to themselves to feel refreshed. Similarly, being extroverted isn’t the same as simply being outgoing. It’s more accurate to say people who are more extroverted tend to feel energized when they are in the company of other people.
Another misunderstanding about the concept of introversion and extroversion is that we tend to view them as two discrete and opposite personality “types.” Part of the reason we tend to think of them in very black and white terms is because popular (but less scientific) assessments like The Myers-Briggs Test perpetuate the idea that people are sorted into one box or the other. However, the more established psychological theories on personality (specifically the “big Five” model of personality that has emerged as the dominant way of understanding personality in the past few decades) view introversion and extroversion as two ends of a continuous spectrum, and most people fall somewhere in the middle. Though you may tend to feel more introverted than extroverted or vice versa, these distinctions exist in degrees, not as completely separate types.
It’s also important to understand that falling closer to one end of the introversion/extroversion spectrum isn’t better or worse than the other; there’s no such thing as incorrect answers or a bad personality according to personality tests. However, certain traits are more predictive of success in certain jobs. As it applies to job fit, how introverted or extroverted a candidate is relates to how comfortable they are with certain job requirements. For instance, if a candidate feels more energized after spending time alone, they might not be comfortable in a position in sales or customer service since these roles require frequent, extended customer interaction. This is not to say that someone who is more introverted couldn’t be an excellent sales person. They may just find the position to be more draining than a candidate who is more extroverted, who may find those kinds of interaction stimulating. Similarly, an extroverted person may not feel as satisfied working as an analyst who works independently all day.
As a result, personality fit is a useful part of identifying the right candidate for the job. How introverted or extroverted an applicant is serves as a good predictor of success in a wide array of positions. Unsurprisingly, people who are more extroverted tend to excel in jobs that require a lot of human interaction. Sales and nursing are job families in which “extroverts” have been shown to thrive. On the other hand, people who are more introverted find success in positions that require extended periods of solitary work. Jobs like programmers, analysts, or accountants are all positions where comfort and success in the role have been correlated with a higher degree of introversion. People who “fit” well within their role are not only more likely to excel but also more likely to remain in that role, reducing turnover and lowering your hiring and training costs.
When it comes to job fit, an important part of an applicant’s personality is how introverted or extroverted they are. That’s because identifying a candidate who is comfortable with their work is crucial when choosing the right person for the job. Understanding these terms makes it that much easier to make more informed hiring decisions.