Hiring managers should look for enthusiasm in job candidates during screening and on-site interviews. Enthusiasm indicates job candidates are interested in working for the employer and excited about their profession. This enthusiasm is usually sustained when on the job. It makes it easier for employees to endure discouraging periods on the job and persist in their work until they obtain the desired results. Enthusiastic employees promote good morale and productivity in others. They are people others are eager to work with and to work for.


There is an interesting scene in the television show JAG about military lawyers that seems relevant. In the first episode of the second season, law student Ensign Bud Roberts joins the legal staff. The admiral appoints him to assist two more experienced lawyers on a critically important case. When a state department official protested citing Roberts’ inexperience, the admiral noted the ensign’s enthusiasm and said it could be valuable in solving the case. Of course, the script was written so the admiral’s prediction came true. Nevertheless, in real life an individual’s enthusiasm can sustain him or her when solving difficult problems and also be contagious infecting coworkers.


Enthusiasm during employment interviews


How does enthusiasm shine through during employment interviews? Enthusiastic candidates indicate their enjoyment of lab work and their interest in the employer by their behavior. Those looking for their first job are enthusiastic about their academic work, their college, their professors and fellow students. Experienced candidates are enthusiastic about their accomplishments, technology field and industry.


Their questions let hiring managers know they have spent time learning about the employer and about the job opening. Enthusiastic candidates use this knowledge to make a case for their being an outstanding choice to fill the available position.


Enthusiastic candidates are intensely interested in the job opening. They want to know why the position they are interviewing for is vacant. They may ask about the previous occupant of the position and even ask to talk with the individual to learn more about the job opening. Enthusiastic candidates also are interested in how they will fit in with the work group to which they are assigned.


The questions enthusiastic candidates ask are not just about their first assignment but also about what they would be doing in the future and what opportunities are available to grow professionally.  In particular, enthusiastic job candidates are interested in upward mobility.


Enthusiastic people are enthusiastic about more than just their profession and the possibility of employment with your organization. They usually are enthusiastic about hobbies or outside interests. Asking about these during meal breaks can enable you to judge their enthusiasm.


Detecting fake enthusiasm


There are always some candidates who manufacture fake enthusiasm about a job opening and employer. Some of these may put on a convincing act. However, by observing candidates closely and asking behavioral questions, hiring managers usually can see though a convincing actor. Also, it’s difficult to sustain fake enthusiasm during the course of an all-day on-site interview.


Times when candidates relax their guard can also enable hiring managers and their staff members see through an act. Meals with candidates and lab tours are such times. Candidates certainly aren’t relaxing during employment interview seminars. However, fake enthusiasm is difficult to maintain during a 30-45 minute seminar.


Final remarks


It usually doesn’t take special training for hiring managers to detect and gauge enthusiasm. For example, when I sit with job hunters to discuss how to improve their resumes, it is easy to detect enthusiasm when they talk about their research.