We’ve been interviewing girls for Sixth Form scholarships this week. Research suggests that the most crucial part of any interview may happen before the interview itself begins. The Daily Mail published an article this week about a study by Resurgo Trust, a charity that helps disadvantaged young people find employment, citing their findings that prospective candidates are often judged by the quality of their small talk. Apparently the first 12 words you speak – between reception and the interview room – can make all the difference to your success (see this article by Tim Dowling in The Guardian for comment: http://www.theguardian.com/money/shortcuts/2016/jan/26/twelve-words-say-job-interview-avoid-opening-lines).

While it may be true that a facility for small talk can impress an interviewer initially, true strength of character is not always to be found on the surface. It is important to listen to a quietly thoughtful character as much as to the chatty, outgoing candidate.

Susan Cain wrote a book a few years ago, called, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It made me think about how I responded to different types of personality in my classroom. Cain argues that in the West, where the ideal of the extrovert is extolled, we hugely undervalue the strengths of introverted people. She refers to research to demonstrate that introversion is both common and normal and points out that many of the world’s most creative people and effective leaders were introverts (see Susan Cain’s excellent TED talk

What’s to be learned, in my view, is the importance of listening to individuals and of being able to appreciate different temperaments. It was a privilege to interview all these bright, talented girls and the real joy is that they are all very different in their funny, committed and passionate ways.