THE BLOG

Why You Shouldn't Be Enthusiastic in a Job Application

06/05/2015 11:27 BST | Updated 03/05/2016 10:12 BST

In our society, if you want something, you go out and buy it. Getting a job is one of the few instances where money is completely irrelevant. A job is quite literally priceless, so at some point someone is going to reject you from a dream opportunity and there'll be nothing you can do about it. For once in our consumerist society, wanting isn't getting.

I'm writing about this because it's a lesson that's cropped up time and time again in my graduate recruitment career. You probably did all the right things in the job application, you loved the company, lived and breathed their annual reports, lined up extra curriculars to match the job spec and even followed their official accounts on Twitter.

Then you get an email starting with "unfortunately, we regret to say...."

I've written that line many times, that cliched attempt at softening a blow. Occasionally however, I wrote those sentences with dread, and I winced as I clicked the send button, because I knew what was coming back my way. I've received many insults from previously obsequious candidates whose fury had them burning professional bridges more quickly than a defecting Tory candidate. If I bothered to delve among their accusations and curses, there would be phrases such as these:

"But I was the most passionate candidate!" "I was so motivated for the role!"

Sorry mate, do you think Scarlett Johansson has slept with every "motivated" boy who asked? Believe me, a little more than motivation is required.

I am very suspicious of a human's ability to persuade itself of what it truly wants. People buy all sorts of useless stuff, like air from Kanye West concerts

I'm sure these candidates were very enthusiastic about the job opportunity, I believe them, but it led them to the arrogance of self-entitlement, then to the mindset of a child in paroxysms by the crisps & snacks aisle, refusal ringing in its ears. The same arrogance which made them think that their enthusiasm alone merited reward, also led them to lash out at me when they received the "wrong" decision.

I'm sure for every angry email I received, a dozen more candidates seethed inside, thought the exact same thing but restrained themselves to just deleting the email and getting on with their day. So I'm writing this advice to them all:

If at any point in your preparations for a job application, you list "my enthusiasm" in your top 3 reasons as to why you should get the job, you should abandon the attempt entirely. I'll explain why.

Reason 1

Enthusiasm isn't a skill or key work experience. Enthusiasm doesn't mean you have the ability to do the job you're applying for - and it really doesn't mean you have the mental faculties, determination and talent to learn on the job either. In fact, if you actually had any ability, mental faculties, determination and talent, you'd be writing about those instead, not waffling on about an unprovable and unquantifiable emotional feeling you have for the job. Find a job you might actually be able to do, and throw this application in the bin

Reason 2

The employer will expect every single person they interview to have enthusiasm for the job. Highlighting yours is like boasting you can read and write English. It's simply a no-brainer. A good application should set you apart from your competition, you need to prove you're different and better. Boast about something the other candidates don't have, don't waste the word count on being identikit. If you do the latter, you won't beat the competition, it's a waste of your time, so throw your application in the bin.

Reason 3

Enthusiasm applies to every job in the world. Every job is unique. You should know a job spec so well that you can pick out what makes it unique and tailor your application accordingly. Enthusiasm is what someone puts in their top 3 when they don't know what the job requires, in the expectation that this generic answer will still apply. If you don't know what the job is, throw your application in the bin.

Reason 4

I am very suspicious of a human's ability to persuade itself of what it truly wants. People buy all sorts of useless stuff - we buy things like Quavers, selfie sticks, onesies, air from Kanye West concerts. People swim in the Arctic Ocean for fun. Someone voted for Sarah Palin. Humans can whip up enthusiasm for just about anything.

Therefore, if you're listing enthusiasm as a reason for the job, ask yourself if you're just writing it down in the hope it'll drum up enthusiasm in your heart and convince you that you really really definitely want to manage data servers in Woking, honestly.

Think about it, if you're so stumped for reasons as to why you should get the job, that enthusiasm is all you can put, then your skillset isn't relevant. Why isn't it relevant? Maybe because this job isn't actually in the field of work you've been interested in so far. Therefore, perhaps this job is not as interesting as your desperate unemployed self wishes it to be.

Therefore, hold out for something better, and throw your application in the bin.