Don't Be a Job Search Robot

I will always remember a particular candidate who interviewed with a search committee I was on about six years ago. He was polished. He wore exactly what you're supposed to wear to an interview. He smiled and had a strong handshake. All of his interview answers followed the STAR method. He didn't ramble. He asked good questions. At dinner, he made conversation that was casual but still work-appropriate.

But we didn't hire him. He was like something out of a job-searching handbook. We were all impressed by him, but somehow found that we were all left with the impression that he wasn't genuine. We ended up hiring someone who was less polished in her interview but impressed us all with how incredibly passionate she was about the work.

This is why I say that enthusiasm always beats strategy when it comes to job searching, and interviewing in particular. You can read every job-searching book and website out there, practice and practice until you can answer any question flawlessly, eliminate all your nervous habits, and you still can't guarantee that you're going to get hired. Genuine passion and enthusiasm, though, are hard to fake and impossible to teach. I would hire someone who's in love with our organization and the work we do but who has a weak handshake over someone who's polished but shows no genuine excitement for the job. I can teach a handshake, but I can't make someone love something.

I say this both to encourage you to find a field that you love and to warn you that there is no magic formula to getting hired. I provide these tips on job searching because I want to help people present their best selves to employers by overcoming communication stumbling blocks, not because I think you can fake your way into any job you want with the right words.