How to show enthusiasm in a job interview

Job search fatigue is real. It can appear as a mixture of physical and emotional exhaustion after weeks if not months of applying and not getting an interview.

Once you’ve successfully trawled through job descriptions on LinkedIn (a recruiter’s favorite social media platform), job sites like Seek, or good old-fashioned networking, you probably want to close the deal with an interview where you display 110 percent enthusiasm for the company .

But it turns out it’s easy to trip up here. While many employers say they look for genuine enthusiasm from job seekers (with one study showing that four in 10 respondents say they turn down job applicants who don’t show enthusiasm in an interview), an overzealous beaver can also make you being rejected.

Instead, an interviewee should gain an advantage over another applicant by showing real enthusiasm, but not too much – and end up looking fake.

Expressing “intense” rather than “mild” enthusiasm during a job interview, a new study co-authored by Professor Karin Sanders of UNSW Business School, a researcher at the School of Management and Governance, finds that applicants’ chances of to be perceived as an applicant suitable for the job.

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Why enthusiasm is an important interview skill

The interview process can be harrowing. But hiring managers and recruiters will appreciate someone with a positive attitude who can also control their emotions instead of overacting.

But many job candidates may not be aware of the importance of showing enthusiasm for the position they are applying for, or have trouble showing it naturally when they are introverts.

But can you be too enthusiastic in a job interview? If potential employers are out of control of your enthusiasm, they may see it as unprofessional.

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“Our research shows that there are differences in the intensity of enthusiasm and that too intense is less appreciated, but showing enthusiasm is helpful,” says Prof. Sanders.

In the study, Does emotional restraint or exuberance get you the job? How and when enthusiasm intensity is related to perceived job suitabilityProf. Sanders and co-authors analyze the responses of nearly 600 recruiters in China on how enthusiastic they are about job applicants.

While the study is based on evidence from China, Prof Sanders says the results are consistent with findings on emotional intensity in countries like the US and the Netherlands.

Prof. Sanders explains: “Previous research does not consider the consequences of the level of enthusiasm in job interviews (also known as first expression effects).

“Such enthusiasm influences the interviewers’ cognitive coding processes, which subsequently determine the interviewers’ perception of the candidate’s suitability for the job.”

Karen Sanders

The ability to adequately express enthusiasm in a stressful situation like a job interview often requires a degree of emotional control, says Karin Sanders of UNSW Business School. Photo: Shutterstock

So, unlike mild enthusiasm, employers generally don’t value intense enthusiasm. “Higher intensity statements can be perceived as extreme and unprofessional and do not always lead to favorable outcomes for applicants,” says Prof. Sanders.

However, much of this also depends on the context and the specific position for which the applicant is applying.

Nevertheless, the results show that strong enthusiasm does not always reduce job suitability and can sometimes lead to a positive interview result (depending on the characteristics of the interviewer).

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“We find that the interviewer’s perceptions of diminished appropriateness explain the negative consequences of intense enthusiasm. In contrast, the positive consequences are determined by the interviewer’s perception of the applicant’s attractiveness to the organization,” explains Prof. Sanders.

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How do you show enthusiasm in a job interview?

So by showing mild enthusiasm, a respondent is signaling that they are motivated for the job and in control of their emotions. On the other hand, applicants can show that they cannot maintain control in stressful or difficult situations by showing intense or exaggerated enthusiasm.

These results underscore the importance of non-verbal communication. “If non-verbal communication weren’t important, employers could vote by just reviewing job applicants’ resumes or cover letters,” says Prof. Sanders.

This suggests that the primary reason for an interview is primarily to assess a candidate’s suitability based on their non-verbal communication skills.

“Nonverbal communication is important in job interviews and many conversations. Because of this, we’ve transitioned from phone calls to Teams and Zoom meetings, although we still lack a lot of non-verbal communication compared to communicating in person,” she says.

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Interview tips to prepare for your next job interview

When preparing for an interview, we are often told that first impressions count. But sometimes first impressions boil down to our body language.

Enthusiasm is crucial in answering interview questions, asking great questions at the end of the interview, and even in any follow-up actions such as B. a thank you note. And it can mean the difference between not getting a job or advancing your career.

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Aside from dressing appropriately, how do you nonverbally communicate excitement?

“Eye contact for a few seconds (but not for too long). Have a smile on your face, nod when the podium speaks (to show that you understand and are listening),” says Prof Sanders.

“Laughter also shows that you are relaxed, but don’t laugh too much; it signals that you are nervous. Wait for the panellists to laugh first. Have an open attitude, a good handshake, and look at the other person,” she says.

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What body language should you avoid?

“Poor posture by leaning back (demonstrating lack of enthusiasm) and crossing your arms can be perceived as either uninterested in the discussion or overconfident or arrogant,” explains Prof. Sanders.

“I saw many of these examples in interviews. It kills your motivation to hire such an applicant.”

What if it’s a phone interview? What are some other things job candidates can do to stay in control and stand out in a job interview?

“Know the business. Google as much as you can about the organization e.g. Annual reports, know the panel members (spend an afternoon or so to learn more about your potential employers) and make sure the role is a good fit for you,” explains Prof. Sanders.

To assess or measure a candidate’s “appropriateness,” hiring managers often rely on a combination of “feeling good” and “checking many things.”

Human resources research plays an essential role here in order to support employers in hiring suitable job candidates. And respondents can practice showing control to increase their chances of getting the next job offer.

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