You cannot put introverts in a box. Not everyone is anxious, clumsy or shy. But we all share a common complaint: the group interview.
A large undergraduate population and equally large groups of applicants for student organizations go hand in hand, and some organizations receive hundreds of applications. Group interviews make sense for programming purposes, but limit the ability of a panel to evaluate all applicants in an equitable and fair manner.
UT student organizations should stick to individual interviews instead of forcing group interviews, so that they can understand all of their respondents, both introverted and extroverted.
Sometimes you can identify an introvert and other times you can't. In the first case, when it comes to a group interview, the introvert will be the quietest person at the table. While outgoing applicants in the group show their social skills and dexterity, the introvert can sink into a corner and feel too uncomfortable to speak. In this situation, recruiters do not have the opportunity to recognize perception and value. The introverted applicant has to offer.
The second case can be presented as follows: the introverted applicant will act exactly like his extroverted counterparts, but to reach this level of assertiveness, the introvert is making a show. The recruiter does not obtain an accurate reading of this applicant, as they are forced to act differently due to their environment.
Either way, we fall short.
The second year biology student Caroline Chessher relates to this experience. She felt frustrated after participating in a group interview for a group of spirits.
"I definitely had answers to the questions the interviewers asked, and I was proud of them," Chessher said. "I just didn't have the opportunity to share many of my thoughts because I felt intimidated by the super outgoing and charismatic girls I was with, and I found it difficult to get into the group discussion immediately."
Chessher did not enter the spiritual group to which he ran.
"I definitely think it's because I wasn't assertive enough in the group interview," said Chessher.
Public health junior Preethi Kannan sees benefits for the group interview. She is a coordinator of the peer-led undergraduate study program, and plays an important role in the selection of student program facilitators for each incoming class of members.
"Group interviews are important because we need to see how well students can collaborate and express their ideas to other people," Kannan said. "I think this still includes introvert applicants because we are also looking for facilitators who are really good listeners and can contribute to the conversation based on the things they observed."
Listeners identify themselves when they speak and contribute something based on their observations during the interview. While some student organizations may be attentive to listeners, they still do not address the fact that their contribution must be made to everyone, which can be an insurmountable obstacle for many introverts.
If an organization specifically looks for extroverts, then be transparent and stay in the group interview. But organizations that claim to value a diverse class of applicants should eliminate it from the selection process.
Chessher and I are introverted. While our shared identity manifests itself in different ways, we both relate to the fact that there is something uncomfortable and untrue in acting in a group. Introverts are complex, insightful and valuable to your team. Give us the opportunity to prove it without the pressure of a group interview.
Dronamraju is a second-year public health student from Dallas.