During nearly two decades of recruiting I’ve seen candidates range from being on the verge of desperation when interviewing for a role, to playing it so cool that the hiring team wasn’t sure if the person really wanted the job at all. In either case, the candidate was typically not offered the position. There is a middle-ground where you can – and should – express your interest when a role is a good fit for you, and it starts with asking yourself the right questions.
Is this a job you are qualified to do? The first step to answering this question is to be sure you have a clear understanding of what success would look like in this role. Once you fully understand the needs of the organization and the requirements for the role, then you can better tell your story. Articulate not only what you have done, but what you can do to achieve the goals set for the position, department and company. Extremes are often discounted as fiction, so provide solid examples of work you’ve done in a positive (but not Polly Anna) way, without exaggeration.
Is this a job you want? To answer this, you once again must have a clear understanding of the position, the organization, the team, and where this role will help you grow towards the future. Ask good questions that not only demonstrate your desire for understanding, but show that you’ve done your homework and already have some idea of what’s ahead. If it’s a job you want, speak in future terms about how you would approach challenges, how you would interact with the team, and how you would quickly get up to speed on business needs so you can hit the ground running. Avoid blanket statements like, “I’m perfect for the job,” or “I’d do anything to have this job,” because they are often dismissed by the hiring manager and can be a complete turn off. Use a balanced approach to express that the role aligns with your qualifications and career goals – you’ll be heard.
Are you interested in working with and for the leader who is hiring you? Getting to know the person you would be working for is as important for you as it is for him or her to get to know you. Once again, ask good questions not only of that leader, but of their team members who are part of the interview panel. Gain as much understanding of style and substance so that you can show how that style has worked for you in the past, and it’s what you want for the future.
While it’s important throughout the interview process to demonstrate enthusiasm for the opportunity, be clear in the end that this is a role you would like to have. This can be said verbally as simply as, “I am very interested in this opportunity and I hope to be part of the team to make this transformation project a success.” Also, adding a sentence to this effect as part of your thank you note is a smart way to leave the right impression and reinforce your interest in the position.
In the end, the interview process is an opportunity for both parties to discover if they are a match for each other. Just like you want to be wanted by the organization that is hiring, those team members are looking for confirmation that you want them. That mutual attraction is what will spark a great long term working relationship.