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Interviewing for Passion - A Snapshot


Are you selecting candidates with a true passion for the position they’re about to step into? As an experienced hiring manager, you probably screen and test candidates to assess their technical skills, and you probably probe into their backgrounds to make sure they can—and have—accomplished the kinds of tasks the job will require. You probably also look for candidates who are personable and easy to get along with, and may look for cultural alignment with your existing teams. But passion for the job will also play a key role in the candidate’s future success, so you’ll need to look for candidates who are truly and deeply committed to your larger mission. Here are a few ways to make this happen.

Define the terms.

Ask your candidate what “passion” means to them. How would they define this term? Does their definition align with yours? Ask your candidate to describe a moment in the past when she had to demonstrate real passion in order to push past an obstacle or accomplish a difficult task.

Look for nonverbal cues.

Most of your conversation will focus on this job and this industry, of course. But within that framework, certain specific aspects of this business will probably light a spark within your candidate, and it’s in your best interest to note when this happens.

  • What causes the candidate to lean forward and light up?
  • What specific topics inspire the candidate to gesture while speaking?
  • Does she do this when talking about working with others or working alone?
  • Does she light up over client interactions or in-house problem solving?

Let the candidate choose a direction.

Feel free to sit back at key moments during the interview and allow the candidate to speak in an unstructured way on a topic of her choosing. Ask broad, opened-ended questions and see where she goes with the answers. For example, “What do you hope to get out of this job?” and “Why are you here today?”

Look for area of disinterest as well.

While you attempt to identify areas of passion and interest, keep an eye on the topics that cause your applicant to close down. At what points does he lean back in his chair or glaze over? What kinds of statements cause him to frown, become skeptical, withdraw, or express nonverbal signs of disinterest, like lost eye contact or a slouching posture?

Share information freely.

Be honest, direct and forthcoming with the candidate about everything the job will entail, especially if you think certain details fall inside or outside of her scope of interest. If this job involves lots of public speaking, for example, share this fact. Whether she loves or hates public speaking, she’ll need this information in order to make a decision that works out well for both of you.

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