- On January 31, 2021
This article from The Cut asks a very good question: do you have to exaggerate enthusiasm in an interview? The answer is you have to show real enthusiasm. If you don’t, you will get dinged. The reasons are sound: if you are interested, you will work hard and stick around. Also, other applicants are undoubtedly sounding interested, so if you don’t, you will stick out badly and not be selected.
The key is showing enthusiasm authentically. It doesn’t have to be by speaking loudly and waving your arms around. Instead, I tell candidates, especially those who are reserved or introverted, to talk about what gives them joy about the work at hand. For example, they can talk about clients they have helped, and then their natural passion will come out. (Pick a story where the subject relates to the job of course.)
The article gives this lengthy example of how a serious person can effectively show interest without being fake: “At the end of an interview, for example, when given the chance to ask questions, I’ll pause, take a deep breath, and ask very seriously if I can talk a little bit about what my work means to me. That usually gets people’s attention. Then I’ll give a little speech about my work — the difference we’ve made in our clients’ lives, how hard and how rewarding it is at the same time, the way I feel called to this work through my life experience and faith tradition — and blow their socks off not with how excited I am about the work but how seriously I take our mission. I’ve developed a reputation for being serious and reserved but in a way where my reserve is just a cover for the intense emotion I must be feeling all the time. I never need to fake ‘perky’ or ‘bubbly’ (shudder), but no one questions my commitment.”
In short, show passion by talking about the elements of the job that you do care about. You can play the game and not be fake.