Show Enthusiasm — But Not Too Much — When Applying For A New Job

HS Burney
HS Burney
Aug 29, 2020 · 3 min read
Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

In a job interview, the hiring manager wants to see that you are genuinely excited about the opportunity. Your engagement during the process is a window into how enthused you will be when you step into the role.

However, showing too much excitement can backfire. If you come across as desperate to leave your current situation, it creates doubt in the prospective employer’s mind.

This is particularly true if you’re changing companies within the same industry. Is the job you’re applying for a big promotion, very high profile, or an otherwise once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

If not, the prospective employer might speculate that you’re not performing at your current job, hence your fervent desire to leave.

When I interview external candidates, I am curious to know what their career path would be if they stayed at their current institution. I want to understand whether the person is leaving because their options have dried up, or if they’ve been indirectly asked to leave.

This isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker, but you should explain why your current job doesn’t fulfill you anymore. Maybe you’ve been doing it for a long time, and it’s become repetitive and devoid of challenge. Maybe you’ve stopped learning and growing, and the job doesn’t allow you to take on stretch projects.

Share this with the prospective employer but also speak about how your current company has supported you and enabled your professional development. Even if they haven’t been supportive, find the diamond in the coal mine.

Don’t badmouth your current employer, at least not too overtly. This only makes you look bad, particularly if your company is established and well-respected in the community. Don’t lie — but be diplomatic.

There can be good reasons to make a lateral move from one company to another, e.g. future growth opportunity, compensation structure, professional development, company culture, etc.

It’s important to clearly articulate these reasons when asked, in an interview. However, if you’re as excited about a lateral move as you would be for a promotion, your prospective employer will question whether your current role is more junior than you are making it out to be.

If you want a prospective employer to believe you’re a superstar, curtail your enthusiasm and let them chase you a little bit. It enhances your value. Job applications are a two-way street. You are competing for the job; employers are competing for the best candidates.

Even if you’re desperate to leave your current job, it’s never a good idea to share this profusely with a prospective employer. No one wants anyone else’s rejects.

Make them aware — subtly — that you have options. If you seem too eager, they will start to question everything you’re telling them.

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