Don’t Do THIS: Go In Halfhearted (or Less)

You’ve been spending quite some time sending out resumes. Some of those open positions sound absolutely perfect for you; others may not be exactly what you were hoping for, but they could sure use somebody with your experience and skills. Finally, you get a phone call and you’re invited to come in for an interview.

It’s the big day. You’ve got a nice suit on, you’ve got extra copies of the polished resume that got your foot in the door, and, because you’ve done your homework on the position and the company, you’re coming prepared with some questions for whoever’s interviewing you. But there’s one other thing you better also have because it’s something that anyone talking to you is going to want to see no matter how fantastic your skill set is, and that’s enthusiasm. Trust me. I know this from personal experience.

When I was a teenager and trying to get a part-time job, I applied, as so many other young people do, at the local McDonald’s, and I got my very first interview. One of the questions the manager asked right off the bat was “Why do you want to work here?” I answered quite honestly, “Because I want to make some money.”

Now, while I was as personable and charming as I could be for the rest of the conversation, that answer cost me the job right there. In my naïveté, I thought my candor would be appreciated. It wasn’t. Of course people want to work to make money, but that’s something that could be done anywhere. What they wanted to hear was that McDonald’s was my favorite fast food restaurant, that their French fries can’t be beat, and/or that the service was always professional but friendly. They wanted to know that I actually wanted to be part of their operation.

Decades later, I was the editor of reference works for insurance underwriters and on the other side of the table when it came to interviews. My supervisor and I were building a practically brand new staff, and one candidate looked great, at least on paper. HR brought him in, but the individual we saw didn’t quite match the person described on the resume. He was gawky, wearing a shirt and suit that seemed a size or two too big, and on the quiet side. Quiet? He was almost silent, forcing us to pull answers to our questions out of him. More than that, he was just listless. In fact, at one point during the interview, I passed a note to my supervisor asking, “Is this guy alive?” Really, the zombies on The Walking Dead were perkier.

Did we hire him? No. We were looking to take on someone who would be researching different industries and writing about the hazards involved and what precautions should be taken. That would have involved digging deep into the Internet as well as calling professionals in those fields and visiting companies that manufactured specific products or provided particular services. A certain level of curiosity and energy was needed, and given that he seemed totally disinterested in the position, the work, and the company, and that he came off virtually comatose, it just didn’t seem like this would be a good fit.

So, when you’re called in for an interview, you’ve got to show them not just that you’re interested but that you’re genuinely excited about the opportunity. If it’s that perfect job you’ve been dreaming about, that shouldn’t be hard to do. If it’s for a job that you’re capable of doing but maybe it’s not exactly that one you were imagining you’d get, take stock of yourself. Why did you answer that particular ad? Why did you say, “Yes,” when your friend asked, “Hey, I know somebody who could use you. Should I mention your name?” Find that reason and bring it out. Take that enthusiasm with you and you just might make that open position your dream job after all.

— Daniel Dickholtz

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