An Interviewing Mistake that Will Cost You the Job
Karin Hurt and David Dye are keynote speakers and the award-winning authors of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul. 
My cell phone buzzed loudly. Mike was exasperated. “Karin, I thought I NAILED the interview. The owner seemed pleased with all my answers, and I had great stories for all his behavior-based interview questions. But I just got an email from him saying he loved my qualification but, he was worried about my passion for training!!! You KNOW how passionate I am about training– it’s my life! I was energetic throughout the whole process. What did I do wrong? I had an inkling but delved deeper. Sure enough, Mike had made one of the most common and well-intentioned mistakes that often deep-six a solid interview. He appeared desperate. When asked if the training job was not available, and would he be willing to take a call center manager job for a few years, he said, “sure,” not realizing his attempted flexibility diluted the perception of his passion for training. A similar problem plagued Ted, a director- level succession planning candidate who came to me for coaching. He had applied for several VP jobs: VP of Care, VP of Sales, VP of Marketing and always made the last round, but never got the job. When I conducted interviews with key stakeholders to get underneath what was going on, everyone had a similar impression about Ted. “He doesn’t seem to know what he really wants to do–besides have the title VP behind his name. When he interviewed for the care job, he gushed about how passionate he is about customer service, and how this is his dream job. He almost had me convinced, until I heard he was equally zealous about the sales role. We need a leader with a passion for the role, not just a passion for power.” Yikes.
The key is to do your homework and articulate why your skill sets add the most value for THIS job at THIS company.

4 Ways to Shine the Light on Your Passion for the Job

Of course, you want to appear flexible in an interview. But too much flexibility makes you look desperate–like the guy working his way down the bar trying to land a date. “I’ll settle for this one” doesn’t make you an attractive match.

Know What You Really Want

This might sound really obvious, but trust me, I’ve asked “Why do you want this job?” in a ton of interviews–and it’s a surprising stumper. If “to make more money” or to “be promoted” is the answer, even if you say something different, any savvy interviewer will see the truth. Know why this job matters to you and be able to articulate your reasoning well.

Have a Plan

Of course, it’s perfectly possible that you’re equally qualified for several positions. Before starting LGL, I made a career of dramatic cross-functional moves within Verizon, but I didn’t apply for them all at the same time. If you are highly interested in several roles, be able to explain the strategic value holding each of these positions now (or later) will help you contribute now, and in the future to the company. If you’re interviewing externally and your answer to “Where else are you applying?” looks as random as the fruit on a slot machine, you had better find a way to connect the dots.

Be Prepared

The key is to do your homework and articulate why your skill sets add the most value for THIS job at THIS company. You can’t do that without actually knowing what THIS job and THIS company is all about.

Be Authentic, But Exhibit Discretion

I had another millennial call me to tell me he was in jeopardy of not getting a role because of how he answered the question “Where do you want to be in 15 years?” Well, the fact that he wanted to own his own business in 15 years was TMI (too much information) which panicked the interviewer about “loyalty.” The sad part was this guy WAS TOTALLY PREPARED to work there for 10 years. “Well, I’m not sure about 15 years, that’s a long time. But I would love to talk more about what the next decade could look like for our partnership.”  An authentic AND intriguing response. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching the good guys lose the opportunity because of a communication breakdown. Avoid this common mistake and let your passion for the position shine through.

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