It’s true that hiring managers want passionate candidates—people who are fired up about the position, the company, and even life itself.
But here’s where it gets sticky: Everyone knows it. So, in one cover letter after the next, and one meeting after another, all interviewers hear is “passion, passion, passion,” and candidates start to blend together.
I know, it’s ironic—even unfair—that you’d pick a word to get to the core of who you are and what an opportunity means to you, and rather than differentiate you, it just makes you sound like everyone else. And at first, you might feel worried: What if that’s really who you are? If you don’t talk about being passionate, how will the interviewer get that you really care?
Well, take it from this writer—sometimes looking for a different way to say something helps you say it better. So, think about what you’re trying to get across and try some of these alternatives:
1. If You Mean You’re Excited About the Scope of Work
Maybe you’re describing yourself as passionate about the role, because you’re really drawn to the position’s description. It looks like work you can do, and beyond that it looks like tasks you’d enjoy, and maybe even projects that would have broad impact. So, instead of leaving it at interested, you choose passionate, hoping it will denote an extra level of enthusiasm and sincerity.
The best way to make it clear that this is exactly the position you’ve been looking is to get really specific. Instead of saying “I’m passionate about creating content,” break that sentence out into what you really mean—you actually enjoyed writing papers in school, you love thinking about what will resonate with a target audience, and you try to sharpen your editing skills every chance you get.
2. If You Mean You’ll Stop at Nothing
Maybe you’re using passionate as a synonym for dogged. You mean that no matter what challenges come your way, you’ll get your work done. You don’t want to leave it at determined; you want to take it a step further. To stand out from a pack of multitaskers who divide their energies among various tasks, you use passionate to say you can put on blinders and channel a singular focus, devoting all of your energy to one project.
This is an instance in which an example can really make the difference. You could say you’re passionate about seeing events through and turning work in on time, or you could write a line or two about the time you made it to an event your company was sponsoring during a snowstorm, reorganized a presentation at the last minute when the client decided to change direction, or managed to finish a project even when the servers were down all morning. You could even talk about a favorite strategy or app you use to tune out distractions and give all of your attention to your work.
3. If You Mean You’re Creative
Perhaps you’re trying to say that you’re more right-brained. You want the hiring manager to know about your passion for art either because it’s particularly relevant to the position—e.g., if he’s looking for an innovator—or because it’s the best way to describe who you are outside the office, too. But again, if every applicant uses the same word, it doesn’t matter how true it is for you, it loses its originality (and meaning).
Think about what makes you such a passionate person. Is it that you give extra time and consideration to every thing you do? Is it that you take time to meditate and be present or to create things? By sharing how you engage with the world around you, you’re telling the interviewer much more.
4. If You Mean You Don’t Have Experience
Sometimes people use being passionate when they’re afraid they’re under-qualified (much like “I’m a fast learner”). You may think, “OK, so I’m not an experienced programmer, but I love this company and if it hired me I’d absolutely take some classes and beef up my skills. Let me tell the hiring manager that’s just how passionate I am!” Unfortunately, hiring managers—and ATS systems—can see right through candidates who don’t have the right skills, and being incredibly driven won’t fix this.
If all you want is to work at a given field or company, but you don’t have the skills or experience right now, your best bet is to look for ways to fix that. You can take free online classes, go back to school, volunteer, or seek out other avenues. Truth talk: If you don’t put the time in, saying you’re passionate won’t get you very far.
When you use a buzzword, your meaning gets drowned out by redundancy. Even though each of these options may make a given sentence a little longer, just a few more words aren’t going to add too much length to your cover letter or interview answer. But they will make you much more memorable.