You can’t put introverts into a box. Not all of us are anxious, awkward or timid. But we all share one common grievance — the group interview.
A large undergraduate population and equally large applicant pools for student organizations go hand in hand, and some organizations receive hundreds of applications. Group interviews make sense for scheduling purposes, but they limit a panel’s ability to assess all applicants equally and justly.
UT student organizations should stick to individual interviews instead of mandating group ones, so they can understand all of their interviewees — introverts and extroverts alike.
Sometimes you can identify an introvert and other times you can’t. In the first case, as it relates to a group interview, the introvert will be the quietest person at the table. While the extroverted applicants in the group are displaying their skills and social prowess, the introvert may sink into a corner and feel too awkward to get a word in. In this situation, the recruiters don’t get a chance to recognize the insight and value the introverted applicant has to offer.
The second case may present itself like this: The introverted applicant will be acting exactly like their extroverted counterparts, but to reach this level of assertiveness, the introvert is putting on a show. The recruiter doesn’t get an accurate read of this applicant, as they are forced to act differently because of their surroundings.
Either way, we’re shortchanged.
Biology sophomore Caroline Chessher relates to this experience. She felt frustrated after participating in a group interview for a spirit group.
“I definitely had answers to the questions the interviewers asked, and I was proud of them,” Chessher said. “I just didn’t get an opportunity to share many of my thoughts because I was intimidated by the super outgoing and charismatic girls I was with, and I found it difficult to ease into the group discussion right off the bat.”
Chessher did not get into the spirit group she applied to.
“I definitely think it’s because I wasn’t assertive enough in the group interview,” Chessher said.
Public health junior Preethi Kannan sees benefits to the group interview. She is a Peer-led Undergraduate Studying program coordinator, and she plays a large role in selecting student program facilitators out of 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 is still inclusive of introverted applicants because we are also looking for facilitators who are really good listeners and can contribute to the conversation based on things they observed.”
Listeners identify themselves when they speak up and contribute something based on their observations during the interview. While some student organizations may look out for listeners, they still don’t address the fact that their contribution has to be made in front of everyone, which can be an insurmountable roadblock for many introverts.
If an organization is specifically looking for extroverts, then by all means be transparent about it and keep the group interview. But organizations that claim to value a diverse class of applicants should remove it from the selection process.
Chessher and I are both introverts. While our shared identity manifests in different ways, we both relate to the fact that there is something uncomfortable and inauthentic about performing in a group setting. Introverts are complex, insightful and valuable to your team. Please give us a chance to demonstrate that without the pressure of a group interview.
Dronamraju is a public health sophomore from Dallas.