Does a Lack of Enthusiasm Equal an Unqualified Candidate?

There’s a fine line between an enthusiastic job candidate and one that reeks of desperation. On one hand, you don’t want to hire someone with a laissez faire attitude toward working at your company, but you don’t exactly want someone who is so frantic to get a job, they are practically exploding with eagerness over the opportunity.

Many employers consider lack of enthusiasm a deal-breaker, but the question remains whether that should always be the case. If a candidate is technically qualified for a job, but seems less-than-enthusiastic about the opportunity, you may be tempted to reject them out of hand. After all, conventional wisdom holds that skills can be taught, but it’s next to impossible to change someone’s natural drive to perform and succeed. An enthusiastic employee is likely to give their all day-after-day, helping to drive the company to greater revenues. 

If you reject an apparently unenthusiastic candidate, you could be making a huge mistake, however, as that person may have been absolutely perfect for the position – and for your company. Before making a critical hiring decision, you must consider that you may have not been seeing the candidate’s true colors when it comes to their enthusiasm level. And there could be some very good reasons behind their inability – or unwillingness – to clue you in on just how excited they are to be interviewing for the position. 

It should go without saying, but you must remember that some people are naturally shy. They may be bumbling over with enthusiasm, but simply unable to communicate that adequately. Granted, some employers steer clear of shy candidates, believing their natural proclivity to introspection may prevent them from working well with others, but you must remember that shy people often make better employees, as they spend less time gossiping around the water cooler and engaged in unnecessary inner-office emails. 

At the same time, a candidate may have been excited beyond belief to be interviewing for the job, but merely afraid they would appear desperate if they came across as too enthusiastic. Therefore, they may have tempered their enthusiasm – perhaps a bit too much – and unintentionally come across as disinterested. 

During the interview process, if a candidate doesn’t seem suitably interested in the job, try engaging them in a conversation that may elicit their true level of interest. If they still seem somewhat lackluster about the position, you can just come right out and say, “I’m getting the impression you’re not particularly enthusiastic about the job.” That gives the job seeker the opportunity to tell you how they really feel about the opportunity. It’s far better to make your final hiring decision based on the truth, rather than merely assuming a shy – or cautious – candidate isn’t excited about working for you.

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