There are a lot of ways to do it, but we’d like to talk about the worst: Be “too enthusiastic.”
Don’t get me wrong, being super excited about a job opportunity is a good thing. Just make sure that your enthusiasm translates into excitement and energy, not desperation. It’s a fine line, but there’s no reason to curb your enthusiasm as long as you understand the subtle difference between being eager and being needy.
It’s a sad state of affairs in the job market (and in life) that people will give more to those who need it less. Act like you don’t “need” a job and you’re more likely to get it. This doesn’t mean behaving with disinterest; it simply means that you act like you already have a good thing and you’re investigating an opportunity that could be an even better thing.
The following quotes are from actual people, surveyed anonymously, about their “too enthusiastic” job rejections.
“I was working with a recruiter, so I had a bit more insight post-interview. Two days after an interview for the job of my dreams, the recruiter called me and told me the hiring manager thought I was too enthusiastic because I showed up five minutes early for the interview, expressed excitement and knowledge about the company business, and I ended my interview by asking for the job. I think the recruiter was more disappointed (and exasperated) than I was!”
First, showing up five minutes early for an interview is what we call “being on time.” Second, ending your interview with a closer like asking for the job is a pro move. It’s not you, it’s them, and you’re lucky they didn’t hire you.
“I was told I was too enthusiastic, because I checked on my status two days after my interview via phone call. Apparently e-communication comes off as less desperate and less like I am hurrying their decision. The HR person told me you get less ‘enthusiastic’ as you get older.”
Checking on the status of your application is never the wrong thing to do, unless you do it too often. It’s best to ask your interviewer when you can expect to hear from the company and what their preference is for method of follow up. And we certainly hope that HR person isn’t correct about losing enthusiasm as you get older! Who would want to feel “meh” about their job prospects?
And a candidate whose enthusiasm worked for him/her:
“I did get a job by being enthusiastic, I said something along the lines of, ‘no, there's no reason for you to think it over, it's my job’ a few times and the manager, said ‘uh, uh, uh..... ok? can you be here tomorrow at 4 to start?’”
This is 1) amazing and 2) the exact right kind of bold move that can work with the right person. With the right tone—confident, not arrogant or desperate—and if you’re applying for a position where they value traits like fearlessness and courage, give it a try!
Advice from hiring managers is a little more specific about how enthusiasm can read as desperation:
“Candidates who call and call and call are the worst. If I tell someone I will keep them updated, I will. Their constant calling or emailing slows me down. If they can't follow simple instructions from the get-go, I assume they won't be able to follow my instructions as an employee.”
“We didn’t hire one candidate because of his ‘enthusiasm.’ Very early in the interview, it was clear he didn’t really understand the scope of the job, yet he was already making recommendations and statements about what he would do or change. It was off-putting, to say the least.”
So, bulldozing an interview or too much follow-up can lead to you not getting the job. At the same time, being too tepid or disinterested can do the same. Find a good balance between the two with a few easy tricks:
- Follow the 60/40 rule. You should allow the interviewer to do 60% of the talking. Allow for pauses (count to 10 in your head if you have problems with silence).
- Ask more questions than you answer. Doing research on the company and asking questions that demonstrate your knowledge and curiosity is a big plus for hiring managers.
- Stay on topic and only talk about yourself directly when asked. Let the interviewer lead the conversation and be prepared with specific examples of your applicable experience.
- Don’t walk away before you ask 1) when they expect to make a decision, 2) their preferred method of follow-up if you have questions after the interview and 3) express interest in the position in a sincere and specific way.
And please remember, sometimes not getting a job can be a good thing. If a hiring manager doesn’t want to hire someone who is enthusiastic, energetic and excited about their work, the company has bigger problems than filling the position for which you are applying. Move on and be happy that you may have dodged a bullet.