interviewing with a company you’re in awe of

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A reader writes:

I am applying for a job for a company where I am personally a HUGE fan of everything they have ever made. I have other similar items in my collection, but this company makes the most EPIC ones of these item ever.

That being said (and I know I am assuming a lot here), let’s say I am lucky enough to progress to a face-to-face interview and so not only am I (normal job interview) nervous, but I am also excited. So excited just to be able to even meet these people that I know it would be a problem to keep focused in an interview about the job and not ramble on about how much I enjoy collecting their products…

So, stepping back from the ledge…

I know it is important to express interest in both the company and the position, but how would you recommend I approach not being overly excited about being in and around all these “rock star” product makers and acting awestruck like a kid in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory so I can actually focus on the job interview at hand?

Basically, you’ll have to decide: Are you there on a fan visit or are you there on a job interview?

After all, put yourself in their shoes. Everyone loves to have their work appreciated and have people think that their jobs are awesome. But there’s only so much fanfare you can hear before you just want to have a normal conversation. And that’s exponentially true in a job interview.

Plus, in a job interview, your interviewers need to see that you’re being realistic about what the work will be like. As much as you love this company now, I guarantee that working there will not always be as exciting as you currently think it will, at least not every day. You will have frustrations and bad days and annoying policies and everything else people deal with at work. It can be unnerving when candidates have rosy colored glasses on and don’t seem to realize that. So they need to see in the interview that you aren’t approaching the conversation as a starstruck fan, but as a clear-eyed professional.

They’re not looking for a fan, after all — they’re looking for someone who will be a partner in their work, and there’s a difference.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t express your enthusiasm for their product — you absolutely can and should; enthusiasm is good. But keep it brief and then get down to the business conversation you’re there to have.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Malissa

    Give yourself a mental limit. 2 Sentences on how much of X product I own or something like that. Otherwise you are running into fan territory. Also keep a list of your qualifications in front of you to ground you back to the task at hand, getting hired on so you can get the employee discount. Hopefully there are other reasons you want this job as well. You probably need to write those down to keep yourself on track.
    Enthusiasm for the product is great, but it’s not the only thing. Conveyed properly it can set you apart from the crowd.

    Reply
    1. Eric

      “Conveyed properly it can set you apart from the crowd”
      +1
      And this is why I think the enthusiasm is most important in your cover letter. That is when you are trying to set yourself apart. Once you have the interview, you need to sell on your qualifications. But expressing the enthusiasm can help you land that interview.

      Reply
  2. kristinyc

    I work at a company that has a lot of super fans (a very popular online eyewear company). I sit next to the tables where they do interviews. It’s definitely a plus to show enthusiasm for the company, but do it in a way that shows that you’ve done your research. In my interview, I talked about what a great customer experience I had making my purchase a year ago (and customer experience is a HUGE priority for this company), and how I really loved the charitable side of the business.

    Most companies ask “Why do you want to work here?” so having a prepared response showing how much you love the company is great!

    Reply
  3. Jamie

    I’m trying to imagine my job if we manufactured memorabilia for a certain cartoon cat. Is Alison right that it wouldn’t be exciting everyday? That IT, job costing, inventory control, and QC are the same no matter what the product?

    I just can’t believe that’s true. I think it would be like working in a rainbow everyday. It would be so much fun to write up a QC control plan to make sure the little bows are all of the proper dimensions…

    So basically I can’t work for Sanrio or Van Halen. Good thing I like so few things – my options are wide open.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      I work for a candy company. There are times when it IS fun (I got to go in the innovation lab and sample test products the other day), but most of the time? It’s just a job like any other. :-) But I’m guessing it’s a better job than the former job of a current colleague–he told us he used to work for Massengill, literally selling douche. :-)

      Reply
    2. Dr. Speakeasy

      Which reminds me – I realized I may read this blog too much when I saw some tasteful Hello Kitty earrings in a store and thought ooooh – Jamie would love those.

      Reply
    3. MW

      Having worked at Disneyland (in a salaried office-based role), let me tell you… It’s not like working in a rainbow everyday. Happiest Place on Earth to visit, yes. Happiest Place on Earth to work, no.

      Reply
    4. Meg

      Am I showing my age if I say the first cat to come to mind when you say cartoon cat is Felix the Cat, followed by Garfield and then the Cheshire cat? Even the bow comment did not make me think of hello kitty.

      Reply
  4. Sparky629

    This is exactly why I won’t ever apply to Coca-Cola. I’m sure I would be firmly in rosy-colored-fan-girl-awestruck territory.

    Sorry OP, I have nothing to add but I empathize with you. :-)

    Reply
  5. some1

    When I interviewed with my former employer (not a nationally known entity in most circles), I went online and found out they were releasing a product that I would love to buy. In my interview I said that I had been a fan of the subject of the new product for many years, why the product was going to be a big deal to fans like me, and why I thought it was huge deal that they were releasing it vs. a nationally known company. The whole time I was talking about this, my interviewer was nodding vigorously and taking copious notes.

    Reply
  6. Blinx

    It’s fine to be enthusiastic, just don’t gush. Plus, remember that while you have been admiring them from a distance, getting to know the nitty gritty about what goes on behind the scenes could be an eye-opener. You might want to prepare yourself for disappointment. At any rate, good luck — hope you get your chance to interview.

    I just had the opposite experience. I (finally) had an interview this morning. It was in support of several pro sports teams. I just didn’t happen to follow those sports! While I was very interested in the actual work, I think my lack of enthusiasm came across in the interview. I can picture someone who IS an actual fan being a much better fit.

    Reply
    1. OP

      I think there is something to be said though for “coming in green” to an industry without the rose colored glasses.

      Hope you hear back from them soon. Best of luck!

      Reply
  7. lindsay

    I work for a science museum that is well respected in the museum world and a fun destination for kids, families, young adults, school field trips, etc. My thoughts on it:
    1. It’s nice to have people know your organization/company without you having to explain what you do.
    2. There are some pretty cool things that happen around here and behind the scenes projects that we’re developing, and I get to know about it first.
    3. People have good memories and associations with where I work. Yes, they share them regardless of if I ask or not.
    4. Sometimes a job is still just a job.
    5. I know some of the less-than-desirable things that happen around here, and do you really want me sharing all that dysfunction that with you?
    6. Some days I go to my cube, stay on my floor, and forget that I work in a building with children and dinosaurs.
    7. Museum access for my friends and family is a nice perk.
    8. When someone gets fired (like last week), it kinda ruins the whole museum for them forever.
    9. Even if the museum is really awesome (and it is), my coworkers can make the difference between a great job and a crappy job.

    It’s fun, and I contribute to making some of our amazing programs and exhibits happen, but it is not like working in a rainbow. At the end of the day, a job with a company that makes awesome products or services can be an energy-suck just as much as a job at a boring company.

    Reply
    1. Kou

      I used to work at a museum, only it wasn’t a very good museum. And it was still awesome to be in the collections and seeing all the cool stuff that no one else ever gets to see but the curator and me! But crappy when people asked if they should go visit and I had to honestly say no.

      Reply
    2. TychaBrahe

      Then there’s driving a half hour to work to work for an hour on the only three days the museum is closed and you should be guaranteed a day off, because you are the Lead in the Agriculture exhibit, and the chicken hatchery has to be cleaned and new chicks moved from the incubator to the brooder.

      Reply
  8. anon o

    I don’t work at a company that has fans but I work in a cool industry and when interviewing I am very on guard for people that just want any job in my industry – because like everyone’s saying, a few months in when it’s reports and spreadsheets and annoying emails I want you to stick with it. So I definitely want people who are enthusiastic about this industry and products but I want to make sure that they understand what the job they are applying for entails. So I’d advise you to also focus on the specific job you’re interviewing for and why you want/would be good for that position (as you would in any interview). I’ve had people come in and be disillusioned and unhappy quickly even though I tried really hard during the interviews to make it clear that they’d be doing regular office things 90% of the time. I guess I’m just saying make it clear that you understand what you’ll be doing on a day-to-day basis and that you’re happy with that. (Well if you are of course!)

    My boss doesn’t help because he always comes in and makes it all seem like working in a rainbow (heh) and I’m desperately trying to bring these people down to earth (to continue the metaphor).

    Reply
  9. Elizabeth

    Before I transferred out of the department I worked in part-time to a full-time position in my organization, I interviewed with a car dealership for a sales position. The only reason I even applied was thatm a few months earlier, our car, of one of the makes they sold, broke down on the side of the road when we were on our way to a wedding. They were 30 minutes from closing when we walked in the door, but the sales & service staff took the location of our car, dispatched a wrecker and gave us a loaner on the strength of my husband signing his name & putting down our phone number on a note pad. We made it to the reception, and they fixed our car.

    The level of customer service that both groups showed someone they didn’t know and had no reason to really care about left an impression on me. They made me want to be a part of their team.

    I had 3 interviews, with the sales manager, the operations manager & the owner. I told the story to the sales manager, and each of the other two had obviously heard it and asked me about it when I interviewed.

    I was offered a sales position, but the offer came at the same time I was interviewing for the internal transfer for the full-time position, where I’d already been told I was the leading applicant. After some thought, I turned it down. Since they went out of business a couple years later and I’m still at the same employer having had about 4 promotions in that time, I think I made the right decision.

    Reply
  10. Robin

    I was in the same situation this summer (and I got the job, thanks AAM!) and it can be tricky. If you do get an interview, one of the first things they’ll ask is “Why are you interested in this job?” I led by saying that this particular place was my dream place to work and I would be thrilled to be here every day, but followed it up with more solid examples from my career that suited me to the job. I think enthusiasm for the company is appreciated, but it won’t carry you if you’re not prepared or qualified for the rest of the interview.

    Reply
  11. sam.i.am

    I work in the retail industry and I’ve worked for a few companies that people LOVE. To an unnatural degree. But you know what? It’s not always confetti and polka dots. Some days, you work with pretty things and terrible people. Some days, you’re stuck with email and spreadsheets and you never get to see the pretty things you talk about. Sometimes you see the giant pile of defective pretty things.

    That being said, loving the company and its products can give you an edge, especially if you meet all the other requirements. You’re a natural advocate for them and you probably understand the nuances of what makes their product great. You probably know more about the history of the company and the evolution of its products than people who have been working in your department for a decade. And you probably know exactly where your company is in the marketplace and why it’s better than its competition — and how its competition is gaining on it. This can be really valuable, if framed correctly!

    Reply
    1. OP

      Thanks for your perspective and I think you’ve hit on something here…

      How WOULD you frame it though? I feel like that’s the hard part… just putting it in to words instead of looking like a buffoon.

      Reply
      1. Sam.i.am

        I’d include it when they ask you why you want to work there, ie…

        I love chocolate teapots in general and have purchased a lot of them over the years. The reason I keep coming back to Alison’s chocolate teapots is the value I get for what I pay. No one can compete and im excited about joining this company. In this role, I look forward to continuing to keep standards high while streamlining processes/engaging customers/whatever to maintain/grow out share of the business.

        Or, y’know, whatever applies for this job.

        Reply
  12. perrik

    A classmate of mine was a huge fan of a certain company and its products. Huge. She dreamt of working there someday, and was absolutely giddy when she landed an internship in her field there. Now she’s a permanent (but part-time) employee there.

    It’s not all sunshine and roses on the inside, as it turns out. It’s a job in a large corporation with the usual bureaucracy, inexplicable policies/decisions, stresses, varied assortment of co-worker/manager types, etc.

    It’s fine to be enthusiastic about the company and what it does, and I’m sure my friend’s enthusiasm helped her land the internship. Just go into an interview with realistic expectations and the usual AAM advice. I really like some1′s way of expressing appreciation while also putting that appreciation into a business context. You could talk a bit about your collection of chocolate teapots and why you think their teapot is superior to the rest in terms of handle ergonomics, chocolate stability, compatibility with a variety of marzipan tea trays, etc.

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      “You could talk a bit about your collection of chocolate teapots and why you think their teapot is superior to the rest in terms of handle ergonomics, chocolate stability, compatibility with a variety of marzipan tea trays, etc”

      Am I the only one wondering what kind of employee discount we get on chocolate teapots and caramel coffee carafes?

      Reply
        1. Jamie

          I’ll call the Company that Sells Reinforced Chairs and see if they can cut us a deal.

          I don’t think my QC stats will be the only ones in the gutter.

          Reply
  13. SW

    What a great question! I wish I had read this a year ago when I applied at the Ritz-Carlton — I fangirled so hard it was kind of sad. (Needless to say, I didn’t get the job.)

    But I’ll keep this in mind for when I apply at the Four Seasons one day!

    (Is Kimmidoll hiring? It’s a guilty pleasure.)

    Reply
    1. Joey

      I worked at a Four Seasons then a Ritz many moons ago while i was in school. Let me tell you if you come in with rosé colored glasses they will slap them right off ( figuratively of course). The expectations are more than a lot of people can handle so getting on is no picnic. Here’s a secret to help you in the interview: walk the property a few weeks before you interview ( all of it). And do it again a day before you interview. Yes its immaculate, but when you actually interview you won’t be in such awe of everything because it will be somewhat familiar.

      Reply
  14. Very Anonymous This Time

    Sounds familiar to me. I can offer that even apples have worms. But yes, that fruit is very, very tasty and will challenge your taste buds.

    I completely agree, a recognition of a company’s products can cross the line to fan base, a knowledge and personal use of a company’s product line is great. Also, understanding the direction the company is heading, as demonstrated with their releases, is a bonus.

    Reply
  15. KarenT

    Use your knowledge to your advantage! If you are such a huge fan, you must know tons about this company. Showing your deep understanding if the company and its products (in a conversational not gushing way) could be an asset.

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    I work for a company that has its share of superfans. They are very much on guard for people who are so enthusiastic about the product that they don’t really give any consideration about whether or not the company & the position is a good fit.

    I happen to be one of the huge fans, so when I went for my interview I was very careful not to gush about the products. Instead I spoke about how I felt I was right for the role I was applying for. It’s pretty easy to drop in 2-3 comments that make it clear you are enthusiastic and informed without sounding like a squealing teenager. And if you do get to meet people you know about and admire, limit yourself to one complimentary observation like “I was very impressed with your designs for the TeaMaster 3000, especially [design feature]“. Remember if you get the job you need to be a peer, not a fan.

    Oh, and if you do get the job, make sure you adjust your budget for the product you will find yourself buying! It can add up quickly!!

    Reply
  17. Rana

    Another reason to rein yourself in and approach this professionally: think about what happens if you don’t get the job. If you’re approaching it as a professional opportunity, that’s disappointing, but you can pick yourself up and get on with the job search. If you’re approaching it as some sort of insider fan experience, then what you get is your favorite, awesome company rejecting you. And then every time you see or use their products, you’ll be reminded of that, which spoils that too, or at the very least makes it uncomfortable and weird.

    Reply
    1. Anon

      I interviewed at Yelp and I was super excited about the opportunity to work there. I wasn’t offered the position and I became really bitter for quite some time. It was hard for me to go on the website and not think about the job rejection so I had to stop using their website/app for about a year. I’m still a tiny bit bitter but in hindsight I see what I did wrong in the interview and that my anger was misplaced.

      Reply
    2. OP

      It’s really funny you mentioned that!

      I was thinking about what I was going to put in my cover letter as I was mowing my yard and when I had to cut the grass again yesterday ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT WAS MY COVER LETTER!!!

      Thanks for taking the time to share.

      Reply
  18. Josh S

    The only company I’ve heard of where I would not quite agree with this advice is if you’re applying to work in an Apple retail store. From my friends who have held jobs there, it helps to be a real fan of the product and a huge proponent of the company.

    It seriously feels like they love their employees to have had a few cups full of the Kool-Aid before they join the team.

    Now, I’m still not sure I’d walk into an interview gushing about how you’ve collected every iPod model since they debuted, but having a knowledge of the product and being a ‘fanboi’ of sorts that can talk about all the positive aspects of Apple’s products/design/experience before walking in the door might just give you an edge.

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      You know what they hate at the Apple store? When a computer professional with a business account has to wait and to pass the time makes small talk with other waiting customers about the benefits of pcs.

      Theybstart solving your problems wicked fast. Just a little tip for those who don’t want to spend their lives waiting for their appointment.

      Hey – that’s a legitimate use of small talk! Finally found one.

      Reply
      1. some1

        When I went to the Apple Store to get a new charger for my ipod the guy immediately tried to claim the charger probably stopped working because I charged it on a PC. Then I told him I actually accidentally stepped on it & warped it. The look on his face was priceless.

        Reply
        1. Anonymous

          Ouch. As a long-term Mac user I learned to dread the ‘what system are you using?’ question when I was consulting tech support about Internet connection or peripheral hookup problems, because the conversation usually ended there. Dead modem, broken cable, defective printer, wrong connection info, etc, all were explained by my having a Mac.

          Reply
  19. Sue

    The fandom will wear off once you work there for a while. Think of it as an interview with a good but not great company, because that is probably how you will truly feel about them 6 months after you get the job.

    Reply
  20. Kat

    I once had an internship interview for an entertainment related company (think major sports team). I am a mild fan of the sport in a social context, but can’t name players or recite statistics etc. I knew I would face a question something like “Are you a fan of Team X?” and if I answered anything less than honestly that I would be found out by any remotely detailed follow-up question.

    So I spoke honestly, “I’m a fan of Sport X, I have fond memories of watching games with my Dad growing up. I’ve researched Team X and found out these things (X, Y, Z) that I really think are outstanding, and I’d like to be part of the team for the summer. I can’t honestly say I’m devoted statistics tracking fan though. For me, its about the social experience of cheering on a team with friends.”

    I got the internship, and later found out that was exactly the answer they wanted. They actually deliberately /didn’t/ hire devoted fans, on the assumption that said people would be too busy chasing autographs to get any actual work done.

    Point being – companies hire people because they can do the work, not because they’re a fan of the product. The latter is a bonus, yes, but if they doubt the former (or think you’re interviewing just because you’re a fan) then you’re hurting your chances of landing the job.

    Reply

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