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Recruiters often recommend to "reiterate your enthusiasm for the job for which you have applied" in the interview. However it may be unnecessary or inappropriate...

Is it professional to demonstrate enthusiasm in the job interview?

Update: surprisingly most readers and high-ranked editors who labelled this question as "unclear" transform this question to something else in their heads. Please stay on topic and try to answer exactly what is asked. Try to think what would be expected from you and whether would you attempt to "demonstrate enthusiasm" without fear of spoiling your professional impression (and why).
This question is not about definition of "enthusiasm" (Workplace is full of unspoken rules). This question is not about how to express enthusiasm or how expression of enthusiasm affects chances to be hired. This is not a question whom you prefer to hire or how you prefer to interview them. Do not assume incompetence or lack of care for work although you can assume that "enthusiasm" is not part of the job description. This is not about particular interview but generally about expressing enthusiasm by experienced professionals who already dedicated significant part of their life to their area of expertise. This question is just about impact that expression of "enthusiasm" (whatever it is) may have on perception of professionalism.

Please note that situation is not about hiring non-profit (e.g. charity) employee or a partner (where organisation's goal can match candidate's passion). This is about situation when hired labour may be genuinely passionate about work or may be pursuing "paying the bills" goal.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Dawny33, mhoran_psprep, Kent A., Lilienthal, enderland Nov 19 '15 at 12:35

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    Very relevant articles: "enthusiasm vs. desperation" and "do I have to fake passion to get a job?" – Lilienthal Nov 19 '15 at 10:20
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    OP seems to have a different interpretation of his question/rant given his self-answer below and is actively resisting improvements to the question. Voted to close as unclear. – Lilienthal Nov 19 '15 at 12:29
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    @Onlyjob I suggest you take some time to familiarize yourself with the Stack Exchange model. Notice there, "so if you see questions or answers that can be improved, you can edit them." Also please take some time to view the Be Nice policy. Thanks. – enderland Nov 19 '15 at 12:58
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    What are we calling enthusiasm here: Someone smiling in an interview could be enthusiasm while at the other end is yelling and cheering like your team won the big game. Without clarification of what level of enthusiasm is meant the question is not "straightforward" to my mind. – JB King Nov 19 '15 at 15:34
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    Instead doggedly insisting that people who try to answer/comment on this question are missing the point, why don't you clarify what YOU mean when you say "enthusiasm". The dictionary definition is simply "intense and eager enjoyment, interest, or approval." This can express itself in many different ways. Which expressions of enthusiasm are you thinking about? Can you provide some examples? – teego1967 Nov 21 '15 at 12:10
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I am going to answer this using my personal views of hiring techies which I have done for 15 years.

Is it professional? I don't know.

The better question is - is being excited a positive indicator?

I would say no for the following reasons:

  • a person this excited may not have the ability to control themselves at all levels

  • a person this excited may make me think that they are overselling. This might be fine if I am hiring a salesperson but not a techie.

  • a person this excited might be that excited because the job would be a big jump from their current standing (possibly indicating that they are taking too big of a jump).

A person that is excited will get one thing from me. Lots of very technical questions about each thing on their resume. And wouldn't you know from 15 years of doing this, these types have the least amount of knowledge in interviews. I get out the Sharpie and start crossing out things on their resume right away - and most lose their excitement.

The one case where I allow unlimited excitement without the detective work is a new grad. If it is their first job I find the new grads will be excited especially since my group has a local reputation.

I am not saying that I won't hire someone who is overly excited. I am saying that this person would gain my full suspicion and would walk the full interviewing gamut. But like I said before I am hiring techies and I may react different for different positions. Obviously you want your sales people and customer facing or service roles to have a more eager attitude.

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    I want to point out that it is a continuum. There is such a thing as too little enthusiasm as well. Many interviewers will dismiss a candidate who acts bored by the interview or who seems less than interested in the position. You need to hit the midpoint between total disinterest and bouncing up and down like a five-year old. – HLGEM Nov 19 '15 at 16:26
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    @blankip, you just admitted that you're deliberately harsher (full gamut) on candidates who are "enthusiastic", to the point of taking out a sharpie and crossing out stuff if you don't like the answer (while sitting in front of them). It seems to me like you're unintentionally screening against personality traits that may not actually correlate to performance. I am not saying that's wrong, you want to hire folks that you get along with, but it doesn't have anything to do with objectivity. – teego1967 Nov 19 '15 at 18:12
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    @blankip, that's exactly what I mean. Taking out a big old marker and conspicuously scrawling X's across somebody's achievements, in front of them during an interview is an extremely aggressive move that instantly transforms the situation into a stress interview. – teego1967 Nov 19 '15 at 19:44
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    @blankip, people who don't have the level-of-skill you're looking for is one thing, "liars" is quite another-- in your answer you don't reference "liars", you merely reference candidates who are "this excited" (how excited, actually? that's a mystery but its clear you have something specific in mind, probably one person). – teego1967 Nov 19 '15 at 20:06
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    @blankip If I had an interviewee who couldn't tell the difference between PHP and ASP I wouldn't mark up the resume, but that would be the end of the interview regardless of their enthusiasm for the job. – Mordred Nov 19 '15 at 21:11
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Consider the alternatives: someone who's excited about the opportunity, or someone to whom it's "just a job". Who's likely to work harder? Who's likely to stick around longer?

Who's likely to get hired?

Skills can be developed. Attitude can't.

And if the choice is between multiple candidates with similar technical qualifications -- as it usually is -- I'd always go for the one who seems genuinely interested in my project.

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    Your answer is ironic in light of the poster's handle. – Ernest Friedman-Hill Nov 19 '15 at 3:09
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Companies don't just look for people to do a job they look for people who want to the job. You're going to be spending a lot of time doing what ever job you are hired for and if you don't like it, it will show pretty fast and most likely you will not be in for the long haul.

It may be better and a little simpler for you to talk about work that you have done similar to what and how you enjoyed it and how you would look forward to doing similar things for the company. For example, if you're going for an app development job you can talk about work you've done on apps and how you enjoyed it and look forward to doing it again. This alone will show you are enthusiastic about the job you are tying to get.

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    I have over 20 years of experience and I love my work. Usually I tell interviewer if I want the job. Yet I believe it is wrong to show enthusiasm as it may distract interviewer from skills assessment into highly speculative area. Just think about it, a person who want the job the most is not necessary the one who is the best for a job or they would hire merely comparing who is the most enthusiastic. How do you suggest to measure enthusiasm? You seems to assume that demonstrated enthusiasm is valuable but I doubt that you can support this assumption with evidence. – Onlyjob Nov 19 '15 at 6:38
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    Funnily, just this morning, I read an article about how an algorithm-based multiple choice questionaire was much better at finding the right employees than an experienced human hiring manager, because the algorithm ignored all human factors. The end result was a higher retention of employees in all cases. Unfortunately the test was only done on fixed-term positions with special requirements, so it's inconclusive if it also applies to fields like IT. – Juha Untinen Nov 19 '15 at 9:13
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As a recruiter, I would be looking for people who are passionate about what they do and what they are about to do. I would really love to have such people in the team.

For example, if I am a lead data scientist, I can immediately make out whether the person is passionate about the trade or not, both by his tone, body language (in case, it's a face-to-face) and the resume.

And, people can also recognize fake enthusiasm and flattery far better than you think. So, keep away from fake enthusiasm. It is much worse than a dull interview.

So yeah, if there are two candidates before me who have similar skill sets, I would recruit the one who is passionate about the trade.

  • While I agree that passion for work is valuable I must note that your personal preference is not an answer to my question. For highly technical roles, as recruiter, you probably have natural tendency to be distracted from professional assessment simply because you may not understand technology or what kind of skills are important for the job. In such case you are likely to base your judgement on unrelated and highly speculative things such as passion, enthusiasm or other personal properties that have little to do with skills that are actually necessary or required for the job. – Onlyjob Nov 19 '15 at 6:20
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If, by "enthusiasm", the OP means acting like a child in a candy store then yes of course it is not a good idea to show THAT kind of enthusiasm.

The important things for the interview is to communicate that you want the job, that the job is something you're good at, and that you're easy to work with. For many personalities there's going to be an element of enthusiasm in there.

The statement the OP is reacting to is more directed towards people who present as a "cold fish" personality. If somebody completely fails to exhibit warmth, charm and some desire, they're going to have a much harder time getting hired than someone who is a little too enthusiastic.

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    Exactly - This is where I find it important to draw the line between "enthusiasm" and "passion". I don't run around clapping when I'm enthusiastic: I start discussing ideas in depth and expanding on them. It's not about big smiles and excited noises: it's about showing that you have a true interest in the role or project. I'm a very reserved person, but I've never had an issue showing my enthusiasm through the conversation even though I'm something of a "cold fish". – Jon Story Nov 19 '15 at 11:53
  • @JonStory +1 for a nice comment. But, that phrase I don't run around clapping when I'm enthusiastic:, I imagined a clapping seal, running around the interview room :D – Dawny33 Nov 19 '15 at 11:55
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    That's pretty much exactly what I mean :p some people display enthusiasm as physical excitement and get very flamboyant: while this certainly shows enthusiasm, I don't think it's the only way to do so – Jon Story Nov 19 '15 at 11:56
  • Isn't it too much to expect from a candidate who already offered professionalism and agreed to contribute his expertise? What if role is highly technical? What if job experience proves that candidate is capable (i.e. "good for a job")? Also you seems to assume that candidate is only wanted if (s)he shown desire for work while it is often that job requires expertise that candidate have and as recruiter you might want this expertise. Besides what "OP" stands for? – Onlyjob Nov 19 '15 at 12:09
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    @Onlyjob, there is much more to consider than technical aptitude when filling a position. You should probably research the importance of soft-skills. "OP" stands for "original poster" (that's you). – teego1967 Nov 19 '15 at 14:01
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It is not professional to demonstrate enthusiasm even though it may be beneficial. Excitement is not part of professional conduct or work ethics.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Professional always does the best job possible. Demonstrate skills, responsibility and desire to do your best.

  • Avoid assumptions that lack of enthusiasm is the same as lack of care (for the job). Tell interviewer that you care for the job (if they unsure that you do).

  • Some interviewers expect excitement due to assumption that it makes one a better worker. Usually it is the case when interviewer is unable to make assessment of candidate's technical skills or qualifications. Help interviewer by explaining what makes you a good/better candidate.

  • It may be hard to feel excitement from job description alone without knowing the team, work practices and environment. Ask questions and articulate your concerns.

  • Some jobs are not exciting. Don't fake enthusiasm, it'll only make it worse.

  • Do you feel excited about all such jobs? Act natural. They should not expect you to demonstrate enthusiasm for no reason. Express appreciation if you are offered an unusual (or even just nice) benefit.

  • There is no need to show enthusiasm unless it is a part of job description (e.g. customer facing role). Even in this case being friendly, polite and helpful is not the same. Make sure you are always polite and friendly.

  • Technical or other jobs requiring skills can't substitute experience with enthusiasm. HR people make big mistake if they prefer those who demonstrate excitement over those who can do job well. Make sure you're being hired for what you do well.

  • Enthusiasm can be unethical or weird. Think of a dentist showing excitement about the patient or about a particular disease. Excitement may be unreasonable, inappropriate or even discriminative.

  • Enthusiasm is not always the right skill for the job. Think of a skilled janitor who may be obsessed with cleanness but obviously not excited about repetitive tasks. Whom (s)he suppose to show the excitement? And how long this excitement would last?

  • Your job may require skills conflicting with enthusiasm. Can you be excited while being thorough, meticulous and paying attention to details? What is more important for your job?

  • Be honest. Sometimes you can't be both honest and excited. Honesty is more important.

  • To certain extent you can substitute lack of experience with enthusiasm. If you are a professional you don't need enthusiasm because you are presumably treat all your jobs equally well without discrimination.

  • Different cultures express enthusiasm in a different way. Don't help interviewer to discriminate or hire you for a wrong reason. If you are interested in the job and looking forward to start then do not hesitate to articulate it. If you feel excited but do not know how to express it then tell how you feel (if your feelings are adequate for the job).

  • Do not assume that you are expected to show excitement for the job or that enthusiasm is necessary for it. Mechanic you hire to do a regular car service may not feel excited about the task he already did about 10_000 times yet do it very well. Excitement is overvalued and unnecessary.

  • Interviewer should not expect you to have certain feelings for the job.

  • Interview may be stressful so don't try to look excited and focus on your abilities and job requirements. Stay positive -- interviewer needs your cooperation.

  • Too much emotions can ruin conversation. If you can't sustain your enthusiasm during 3 hours long interview then don't even try. Focus on what's important. Surely there are things more important than showing enthusiasm.

  • It is not professional to do a better job due to "excitement". Do not confuse enthusiasm for motivation. Motivation is important while excitement or enthusiasm is not.

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    I disagree with nearly all the points you raise. I also feel like you've missed the purpose of using bullets to structure an answer. This reads more like a rant against everything from over-excitement and discrimination to bad interviewers. Caring about a job implies some amount of enthusiasm so you're even contradicting yourself. – Lilienthal Nov 19 '15 at 10:26
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    So, the research into a company, the interviewers and other stuff that one could do as preparation for an interview isn't caring at all? That seems ridiculous to my mind as people can care about getting the job which would be linguistically the same as caring for the job as the person applying wants the job, at least usually this is the case. – JB King Nov 20 '15 at 16:49
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    Candidates may be applying for 100 job ads, attending 10 interviews and getting only 1 offer. It is too much of emotional burden to truly care for all those jobs before being hired. As much as mechanic loves cars (s)he can only afford to extend her/his passion to your car after being hired but not before that. Also I'm not sure what kind of job you have in mind (a dream job?) but I'm thinking about jobs that are mostly similar (e.g. janitor, car service etc.). As janitor, try explaining in the interview how much you care to clean a particular building over any other in the city... – Onlyjob Nov 21 '15 at 1:55
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    I think you're setting too high a bar for your definition of enthusiasm. Of those 100, there will probably be a decent percentage that make you think "that sounds like fun, I'd be really happy to work there", others where you don't think you'd be happy, and a bunch in the middle. Even for janitorial staff there are differences between cleaning an office building, a greasy-spoon diner, or whatever... and the benefits offered may differ considerably. If you want this particular job, rather than any job, that constitutes enthusiasm. If you don't care, the employer may not care aout you. – keshlam Nov 22 '15 at 14:18
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    You're deliberately looking for worst-case jobs to defend your thesis. Reality is fractal. There are certainly jobs nobody can be very enthusiastic about. That doesn't invalidate enthusiasm as a factor elsewhere. Heck, even hiring for a fast-food joint I'd take the kid who says "I know it's a crappy job, but I like serving customers and working as a team" over the one who effectively says "I'll do it but I won't enjoy it". Not least because I have to assume the latter is still looking for something she will enjoy more. – keshlam Nov 23 '15 at 14:46

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