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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

March 5, 2019

The #1 reason employers reject candidates post job interview. How to avoid the same fate and boost your odds of interview success.

Julie Q. Brush

In today’s professional world…enthusiasm…is one of the most highly regarded and sought after qualities out there in an individual. In today’s market, it is the most common reason provided by employers for rejecting job applicants. So its importance has skyrocketed. Whether an employee, manager, colleague or candidate, your career success is connected to your ability to project excitement, curiosity, engagement and a positive attitude to those around you…and the work you perform.

And in no setting is it more critical than the job interview. Employers closely assess and judge candidates on their level of “enthusiasm” for an opportunity – and are unforgiving when a deficiency exists. So regardless of how qualified a candidate may be, a move forward can be won…or lost on this single expression. Given this reality, it is critical to tend to this aspect of your interview prep and overall career development. But some professionals are uncomfortable in this pursuit because they’re not quite sure how to do so without being unnatural.

So how does one successfully project enthusiasm without being phony or awkward?

Understanding your general demeanor is a good starting point. Are you laid back? Intense? Jolly? Ask a friend or colleague for feedback on your manner and see where you fall on the enthusiasm meter. Next, it’s helpful to appreciate what “enthusiasm” really means so you know what to aim for. To an employer, it means that you are happy to be there – alert, actively engaged, curious, knowledgeable, energetic, knowledgeable about their organization, upbeat…and you can carry a conversation. It also manifests itself in a firm handshake, excellent eye contact and a smile.

The great news is that most every aspect of enthusiasm is within your control. The key is preparation and practice. So before your next interview, consider this (brief) prep list to help enhance your zest and zeal:

  1. Schedule Your Interview When You’re at Your Best. If you’re not a morning person, a 9am meeting isn’t the wisest choice and vice versa. If you have any say, schedule your interview when you’re at your best.
  1. Research. Educate yourself thoroughly for your interview: the employer, the industry, the interviewer. Identify all the things that excite and interest you about the opportunity and be prepared to discuss. The more you know, the more confidence and enthusiasm you’ll project.
  1. Know Thyself. Why should they hire you? What areas do you excel? Strengths? Weaknesses? If you were a bird, what kind would you be and why? If you are prepared for anything – you’ll be excited to talk about it.
  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep. It’s proven that sleep deprivation affects brainpower so make sure to catch your zzzz’s the night before your interview. You’ll be crisper and more engaged.
  1. Eat Well. Eat a healthy meal or snack at least one hour before your interview for energy. Avoid the burger and go for something light or you’ll wind up in food coma.
  1. Arrive early. There’s nothing that is more stressful and discombobulating than being late for an important meeting. Arrive 30-45 minutes early and sit quietly to gather your thoughts and charge your battery.
  1. Eye Contact and Firm Handshake. Practice until perfect. No exceptions.
  1. Remember why you are there and why you are interested in the position. You’ve earned the opportunity to compete for this great role. Be excited about it and channel your inner Rocky Balboa to pump yourself up for a great interview. Stay focused on being engaged and staying energized.
  1. Nothing says I’m excited to be here than a genuine smile. So be sure to flash your pearly whites. You don’t have to look like a game show host, but you do need to ensure that your facial expression dons the appropriate gesture at all times. 
  1. Use your words. Employers are not mind readers and do not assume that just because you are there, means you are excited about the opportunity. So tell the interviewer that you are excited about the position and are happy to be there. Words are powerful – so use them wisely and directly communicate how you feel.
  1. Send a thank you note. It’s the exclamation point to your message of interest.

Enthusiasm has never been as important in the legal profession as it is today. And it isn’t always easy to muster. Some professionals project it more naturally than others – and demeanor plays a role. But it’s a feeling that can be enhanced naturally if one has the desire and develops the tools to do so. So dedicate the time to this worthy goal and you will see how a little more enthusiasm will bring a lot more excitement to your career.

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