Julie Brush

Q: I’m an introvert and have been rejected in interviews for not showing enough enthusiasm. How do I overcome this if I can’t change my personality?

A: Enthusiasm is one of the most important qualities to exhibit in an interview setting if a candidate wants her/his best shot at receiving a job offer. It sounds obvious that in order to make your best impression, you have to be enthusiastic, upbeat and interested – and that that twinkle in your eye is easy to come by. But surprisingly, this is often not the case. Many candidates in today’s job market fall flat in interviews, leaving the employer unimpressed and feeling underwhelmed. So why would something that seems so easy be a problem? The most common reasons why candidates lack …or are perceived to lack enthusiasm in interviews include the following:

  • They lack interest in the opportunity or are ambivalent
  • They are tired
  • They are stressed
  • They are preoccupied
  • They are unprepared
  • They are overconfident

Another common saboteur is a demeanor that is laid back, intense, quiet, contemplative or introverted.

Some people naturally exude enthusiasm. But for those who are hard-wired differently, creating an extroverted and enthusiastic persona is exceptionally difficult, if not impossible. This constituency is often tagged with “lacking enthusiasm” in interviews simply because of their inherent demeanor. A misperception and a bum rap much of the time.

So what’s a reserved professional to do? 
In addition to the enthusiasm prep list in my prior article (a great checklist I must say!), I recommend two additional strategies for those less effusive lawyers:

1. Acknowledge Your Demeanor And Hit The Issue Head On.

Intense? Reserved? Low Key? Shy? Quiet? At the front end of the interview, acknowledge your demeanor. Then note that at times it can be misconstrued for less enthusiastic, but in fact, you are an interested, intense, calm, _____[fill in the blank] person. Then explain why your demeanor is an asset and how it’s contributed to your success. By raising the issue yourself at the beginning of the conversation – and controlling the context in which it is discussed, you can mitigate negative judgment about your enthusiasm level and enable the interviewer to focus on your other virtues. Example:

“This position sounds fast-paced with sales interaction, which really appeals to me. It’s interesting because I have a low-key personality and can be perceived as pretty reserved. But I am deeply passionate about learning and being part of a team to help build a company. I’ve found that my disposition has served me well in my company’s biggest deals. I’m the anchor that people turn to when things get chaotic. My focus also keeps deals on the right track. It seems like a good fit with your company-given the pace and culture.”

2. Use Your Words To Convey Your Excitement.

Words are extremely powerful tools to communicate emotion and interest. So use them to communicate yours. You don’t have to be the life of the party, the content of your message can be equally engaging. So before your interview, make a list of the things that are appealing, intriguing and exciting about the opportunity. Next to each, articulate why. Then, reference this information throughout your interview. By being outgoing with your language, your interest will shine through. Example:

“I think this role sounds really exciting. There are several things about it that are great. I like the diversity you have described and the opportunity to work closely with the products team is appealing given my current products experience. I also find the legal issues you have described as complex and cutting edge, which I would be eager to tackle.”

“One thing I admire about the firm is the breadth and depth of the financial institutions practice. The global platform and international client base is exciting as I think about building my own practice. I read about John Smith’s American Lawyer award for leading the group and his representation of Company X. I think the quality of the group is very high and would welcome the opportunity to be part of it.”

Professionals with reserved personalities face additional challenges when it comes to raising the enthusiasm factor in interviews. Despite this, demonstrating interest can be achieved without becoming a different person. So use these suggestions to improve your performance and better your outcome. You won’t always succeed – sometimes the chemistry and fit just won’t be there.

But sometimes…you will.

Julie Brush is the founder and author of The Lawyer Whisperer (www.thelawyerwhisperer.com), a career advice column for legal professionals, also found on LinkedIn. She is co-founder of Solutus Legal Search, a legal search/consulting boutique firm, serving as a strategic adviser to lawyers, law firms and corporations.