Imagine for a moment that you’re a hiring manager. You’re considering two job candidates: one who’s passionate about the work and one who isn’t. Who do you choose?
If you answered, “Duh—the passionate one,” without even pausing, then you’re reading the right article. Because, while we hear a lot about how companies want employees who care, that’s only one selling point. So if you’re going into a competitive interview with that mindset, you might be holding yourself back.
In reality, hiring managers are weighing several factors. Who has more experience? Who was more personable? Who arrived for the interview prepared and on time?
Suddenly, it’s not as obvious a decision.
While being passionate matters, it isn’t enough—by itself—to ensure you’ll land your next job.
So, by all means, communicate a love for the work, but don’t overlook the following three things in the process.
1. When You Don’t Have Enough Experience
You’ve heard the stories of people who get hired even though they have less experience than a position calls for. And so, you think you can be one of those people. Since you truly care, you’d be willing to put in the extra hours to get up to speed quickly and perform the job as well as anyone else.
But this train of thought is misguided.
That’s because top candidates who fall short of the requirements usually have transferable skills that immediately compensate for them.
So, while they (too) may only have two years of management experience instead of five, they have another four as a freelancer where they managed relationships with clients and vendors. You’re offering to make up for the difference with passion—they’re offering passion and bonus skills.
Don’t give up hope! You might have transferrable skills, too. One easy gut-check is to ask yourself if you meet the total number of years when you combine your experience across your different roles. If you’re wavering, then you should probably read this article outlining if you’re unqualified or under-qualified.
2. When You’re Unprofessional
A big part of my role in a prior job was reviewing applications. And without a doubt, passionate applicants stood out. I still remember the candidate who wanted to work in education reform because she was one of the only people in her high school to go to college.
But, I also dealt with people who made my day feel longer—like those who were always late or took a week to send a one-line email response. Even if they displayed a love for whatever role they wanted, if I dreaded dealing with them during the application process, it was unlikely I’d recommend them for a full-time position.
The lesson: Being passionate can tip the scales in your favor—when all other things are equal. However, it won’t outweigh highly disorganized or other red flag behavior that makes extending you an offer too great a risk.
Brush up on all the little, tiny mistakes you could be making without even realizing it. For example, playing it (too) cool or speaking negatively about a former boss.
3. When You’re Interviewing Without Any Referrals
Perhaps you know everything about your dream company. You’ve been following them on social since they first had a company Facebook page.
You’ve yet to meet anyone who works there, but does that really matter when you genuinely love their work?
The answer is yes.
The odds that you’ll be hired for a role are 15 times higher if you’re referred. That’s because, instead of taking your word for it, you’ll have someone to vouch your passion (and abilities!).
To find and connect with someone at the company, scour LinkedIn for a connection —alumni or otherwise)—send a message. From there, use this template to ask for a referral. (Or, if you’re lucky enough to already have an in, use it! Now isn’t the time to do this “on your own.”)
If you’re passionate about the job you’re applying for (and I hope you are!), you should absolutely highlight your enthusiasm. But if you tell yourself it’s the golden ticket to landing the job, you could get in your own way because you’re not being honest about the other steps you need to take. So, make demonstrating how much you care just one facet of your job search strategy. While it can’t do all the work for you, it’ll definitely help.