Enthusiasm and potential will land you more job offers than any other qualities. The two are inseparable.


Employers seek enthusiastic people who really want to get involved in the job. You should demonstrate genuine enthusiasm—enthusiasm for yourself, enthusiasm for the job, enthusiasm for your future boss, and enthusiasm for the company.

Enthusiasm For Yourself

Enthusiasm for yourself will come through by showing self-confidence and your belief that you can do the job. When you’re asked “What is your greatest strength?” you must be able to respond with enthusiasm. If you can’t stir up enthusiasm about yourself with a question like that, you won’t be able to do it at all.

It’s hard to sound enthusiastic if you’re overly nervous, since nervous people tend to either speak too rapidly or in a monotone. Neither will present the right impression. That’s why preparation is so important. Preparation gives you confidence and minimizes nervousness.

Enthusiasm For The Job

You’ll demonstrate enthusiasm for the job by showing interest throughout the interview and by asking questions that reveal your genuine interest in the job. One of the best ways to demonstrate enthusiasm for the job is to tell the interviewer that you really want the job and that you know you can perform it well. When it comes across as genuine, you’ll score many points with the interviewer.

Enthusiasm For Your Future Boss

You’ll show enthusiasm for your prospective boss by listening intently to everything he says. Look for an opportunity to ask for his management style and philosophy (if he hasn’t described it already) and then listen enthusiastically. Asking questions to further clarify his style and philosophy will show that you really are interested in everything he has to say. You could make small comments like, “I think that’s really important,” “I think the best managers share that philosophy,” or “I don’t think there are a lot of managers who really develop their staff, as you obviously do.” At the end of the interview, perhaps as you’re standing up to get ready to leave, you could say, “I would really like working for you.” Whatever you say must be genuine. Any hint of apple polishing will actually cost you points.

Enthusiasm For The Organization

Let the interviewer know that you want to work for the organization. During the interview you could ask, “What do you like about the organization and what would you change if you could?” She will undoubtedly emphasize positives. Toward the end of the interview you could state what you like about the organization. This could be based on what the interviewer has stated, what you’ve learned from people who work for or have worked for the organization, plus what you’ve read about the organization. This is an excellent way to demonstrate that you’ve done everything possible to learn about the organization.

Selling Your Enthusiasm

Summing up your enthusiasm at the end of an interview is very effective. You can virtually always discern when the interview is coming to a close. That’s when you look for the opportunity to speak a concluding word. Even if the interview comes to an abrupt end and you haven’t had an opportunity to give a summary of why you should be hired, you can do it even as the two of you are standing and about to shake hands as you part. You could simply stand there and say something like:

I appreciate your taking time to talk with me today. I have to say that this is a job I would really like. It seems to make good use of my strengths and I would enjoy it a lot. It’s the kind of job you can really sink your teeth into. And everything I’ve heard about DataSystems plus what you’ve told me today indicates that it’s well managed and develops its people. I like that. And I can tell I would enjoy working for you.

A statement like this may not seem to be a big deal, but I can guarantee it will resonate in the mind of the hiring manager. There are a lot of intangibles that get considered as a hiring decision is pondered. Virtually all managers want to give the job to someone who really wants it. Even if one or two others are more qualified, if you clearly want the job, and the manager has concluded you would fit into the organization, she will look for ways to justify hiring you.

Suppose the field has been narrowed to two equally qualified people. The employer will ask many questions to determine who is the best choice. A common question is, “If we offered you the position, would you accept it?” Notice the difference in the following two responses.

Sandra: Yeah, I definitely would accept it. The job seems interesting.

Susan: I’m excited about this job. I like the philosophy of top management and the steady growth of the company. This job will utilize my strengths and interests. I’m ready to get started.

If the choice came down to these two people, there is little question as to who would be hired.

The best way to appear enthusiastic is to be genuinely enthusiastic about the job. If you’ve considered your long- and short-term goals, and this job would help you attain those goals, it will be easy to demonstrate enthusiasm.

Demonstrate Enthusiasm Throughout The Interview

Enthusiasm is not demonstrated in just one response to one question. It must be demonstrated throughout the interview. It starts with listening. Really listening to the interviewer shows respect as well as enthusiasm. You can also show enthusiasm by speaking positively about previous jobs or supervisors. Describe how you put all of your energy into a job and describe the results you’ve achieved.

I am convinced that enthusiasm has gotten more people jobs than any other single quality. But because of the stress of interviews, most people tend to speak in a monotone and appear unenthusiastic. Some reduce their level of enthusiasm even further because of the mistaken notion that they should play “hard to get.” At the end of an interview, if you truly want the job, tell the interviewer so. Be enthusiastic. When it comes down to two people who are equally qualified, the person most enthusiastic about the job will almost always get the offer.

Perform An Enthusiasm Check

Because enthusiasm is so important I encourage people to perform an enthusiasm check about every ten minutes during an interview. If you are well prepared for the interview, you can use part of your thinking process to check your enthusiasm level even while you are in the midst of answering a question.

If you realize your enthusiasm has waned, you should not try to instantly raise it several notches; that might seem obvious and contrived. Instead, since enthusiasm usually drops as you get too relaxed, you can begin by merely sitting up straighter in your chair. Over a period of two or three minutes, you should then introduce more hand gestures, raise the level of your voice slightly, and add more feeling to what you say. When you are saying something particularly important, raise your voice slightly, speed up your words a bit, and put more emphasis on key words. As you practice interviewing with yourself or others, record yourself and notice your enthusiasm level. If you can tell it is low, the interviewer will detect it also. It’s something you need to work on.


Your potential is your future worth to an organization. Demonstrating enthusiasm without demonstrating potential will seldom lead to a job offer. The two must go together. Your enthusiasm will give the employer confidence that you want the job and that you will work hard at it. But if you don’t also demonstrate your potential, you will not receive an offer.

Although companies occasionally use elaborate personality tests to determine potential, past success is still the best predictor of future success. If you are a top salesperson at your present company and you are interviewing for a new sales position, your past success will give the sales manager the confidence that you will continue to sell well. If you’ve been fired from four sales positions because of poor results, you’ll have your work cut out for you as you try to convince a sales manager that you really do have potential.

Demonstrate Potential Through Accomplishments

Potential is best demonstrated by telling the employer about your accomplishments. For example, consider Paula, who is returning to work after 20 years out of the job market. She is applying for Administrative Assistant with a small association that represents pharmacists. Membership in the association has dropped because pharmacists feel they have not been effectively represented. In walks Paula, with no paid work experience and only one year of college, to compete with college graduates who have experience working with associations. Even with this competition, Paula lands the job, thanks to her one-year term as president of the PTA. During that year, attendance at meetings increased 60% over the previous year, and fund-raising activities brought in twice as much money. Paula also organized a banquet that people are still talking about. And she was considered to be the primary lobbying force for new state legislation that benefited her school district. By sharing these accomplishments, she proved that she could help turn the pharmacists’ association around. That’s potential.

Selling Potential Can Overcome A Lack Of Experience

Selling potential can get you job offers when others have more direct experience. Tim, who has been the chief financial officer of three companies, states that among the 30 or more people he has hired, he has never hired the “most qualified” person. He is quick to say he always hires qualified people. In fact, candidates are not even interviewed unless they have demonstrated competence in all key areas. But after narrowing the field down to two or three, he usually finds himself drawn to the person who shows great drive and desire. That person has never been the one with the most direct experience. It seems that those with the most experience generally fail to fully demonstrate enthusiasm and potential.

An interesting thing occurs during an interview as you sell your enthusiasm and potential. It begins with the employer’s decision to interview you. Perhaps out of the six who were invited for interviews, you were rated number six, merely because you lacked some experience that was desired which the other candidates had. As you learned about the job, you knew it would be a challenge for you, but you also knew you could do it, and you knew you would enjoy experiencing a steep learning curve. As a result, your enthusiasm came out spontaneously during your interviews. You also related some interesting stories which demonstrated your strong work ethic, your desire for growth, and your ability to successfully take on new challenges. You came across as a person who would fit in well with the team. Three others who had more experience did not demonstrate such qualities and did not get second interviews.

When you learned you were being invited back for a second interview, your desire for the job motivated you to do more research on the organization. You learned about some problems (or challenges) you felt you could really tackle and help solve. In the second interview, you maintained your high level of enthusiasm and you sold your potential by sharing experiences that demonstrated your ability to contribute in these problem areas. You weren’t aware of it yet, but the employer began to actually picture you in the job. The employer began leaning toward choosing you. As the employer’s preference for you became stronger, she realized that she actually liked you better than the other two candidates. She hesitated to hire you, however, because on paper you were not as strong as the other two. But then she began a justification process: Granted, she might have to spend more time training you, but at least you would be trained in her methods. The other two could come in tomorrow and handle the job from day one, but they might insist on using their old methods.

Your ability to sell both your potential and your ability to learn new processes quickly made the employer realize that even though the other two candidates could do the job better for the first several months, your drive and ambition would probably put you ahead of them after six months. Can you see how this process unfolds during two or three interviews? It accurately describes the thought process that occurs in the minds of employers.

Being able to demonstrate enthusiasm and potential is just as crucial to the experienced person as it is for the less-experienced person. If you are experienced, let your enthusiasm come through as you explain how much you enjoy your field or work. Demonstrate your potential by discussing recent, solid, work-related accomplishments. This will indicate to the employer that there are many future accomplishments yet to come.

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