do you have to fake passion to get a job?

A reader writes:

I’m getting so discouraged and wondering if I am missing some essential job hunting/interviewing skill. I have had three interviews in the last month (so I feel pretty good about the fact that my cover letter, resume, and networking are in good shape) but no job offer. The first interview I felt was not a great fit, the second one said they found someone with more similar experience (fair enough), but this last one really shook me up.

It was with a faith-based organization that is the faith that I practice, and I was completely and totally qualified for. In fact, when I read the job description, I thought to myself: “That’s it!” I went in for an interview and I thought it went really well. I felt comfortable and confident and qualified. The way the culture and values were described to me, in some detail, really got me jazzed. I really thought I had it in the bag.

The day after the interview, the recruiter called to say they were not going to offer me a job or pursue me as a candidate because I did not show enough interest in their mission. They felt I could have been interviewing for any old job, that I just wanted a job and that I wasn’t excited about or interested in their mission.

OK, so — is it my burning desire to work on their particular mission? No. It is my burning desire to use my skills to help an organization that does good, however, and this one seemed like a perfectly good cause, and on in my faith tradition, which I made perfectly clear in the interview. I talked about how lovely it would be to work for a place with a spiritual focus and faith-based values, how I know the culture and the language. But no, I did not say “I am totally psyched about your mission! I’ve been waiting my whole life to do this!”

I’ve been mulling this over and I can’t figure out if they are just a bit out there and asking too much, or if this is excellent feedback for me and something I really need to look at, especially since I am looking for a job in the nonprofit field. I am in communications, by the way. I always say, I’m not a doctor or a nurse or a social worker, but I want to use my communications skills to do good. I have 25 years of experience in health care and nonprofit. It’s what I do. But do I need to go to each interview as if that particular organization’s mission is central to my search? Isn’t it enough to present my skills?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 94 comments… read them below }

  1. JD*

    I worked very briefly for an organization that was Christian based, which they in no way explained nor was evident upon research. I found it very difficult to get behind their forcing of their own values on employees.

    1. Julia the Survivor*

      Fascists! I grew up in a fascist city. They are ruining America.
      Interesting that they didn’t make clear they were Christian-based. To fascists it would seem reasonable to hide that if they weren’t getting qualified candidates by being open about it. :p
      The ends: forcing their religion on everyone and making America a theocracy – justify the means: deception, manipulation, disrespect, oppression. :p :'(

  2. fposte*

    It’s also possible that it’s not that the OP necessarily needed passion to do the job, but that she was competing with candidates who *did* have passion and they understandably preferred those candidates.

    1. Malibu Stacey*

      That’s what I was thinking. It’s easy to forget that you are being graded on a curve against the other candidates when you are interviewing. Plus, it could be one of those, “I didn’t realize what I wanted until I saw it” kind of thing as far as passion.

  3. Cobol*

    I made this comment in the paste, but some effusive people confuse demonstrative with enthusiasm/passion. That doesn’t mean you don’t need to sometimes fake it if you fall on the low end, but if your style is that out of line with the hiring manager, you may need to come to terms with the idea that even though the job responsibilities are a perfect fit for you, the job environment isn’t.

      1. Amber Rose*

        I’m now picturing you writing your comment in a puddle of spilled glue, and being confused as to why nobody is replying. :D

    1. Kaybee*

      This is a good point. Unfortunately people confuse effusiveness with passion all of the time. One of my closest friends is naturally effusive, and she can sound just as enthusiastic about waiting on hold for three hours when calling her bank (about which she was decidedly not enthusiastic; that is simply her communication style) as she can about an organization’s mission. I once worked at a nonprofit with a department manager (fortunately, not mine) who demanded that level of effusiveness from all of her reports and it was brutal to watch. OP, if the hiring manager is one who demands effusiveness and that is not your natural style, that could be a very exhausting work environment for you. I’ve seen wonderful employees with a great deal of drive and passion try to maintain that level of effusiveness when it’s not their natural style, and it burned them out every. single. time.

      1. Cobol*

        I made a comment to a friend once that the way he acts when he eats Cheerios is the way I act when I’m really excited.

        1. the gold digger*

          It’s so fun to give presents to my friend Leigh, who is an enthusiastic (in a very good way) person. I could give her a ten-year old yellow pages and she would act like that was the one thing she had been waiting for her entire life to give her life meaning.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            See, I would just find that really awkward.

            I’m British, though, and thus much happier when things are nicely cynical.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            My cousin’s wife is like that! Really, she’s like that about everything. At first I found it almost off-putting because surely nobody can be that excited all the time and she doesn’t need to be putting on this show for us… no, she clearly is utterly sincere about it.

            It’s particularly delightful somehow because my cousin is this really calm, low-key guy and this was so clearly a case where opposites attracted.

      2. Cobol*

        And I hate that people don’t realize their style is THEIR right way, not THE right way. Unfortunately, I’ve seen more people than not who could only see when their way works, but not when it fails.

        1. Kaybee*

          Agreed. The manager at that nonprofit lost really good employees because she couldn’t accept a team with even the slightest of slight variation in communication styles. (This wasn’t a very healthy organization on so many levels, clearly.) And worse, trying to be someone they weren’t, for years sometimes, really hurt some of those people.

        2. PlainJane*

          Yes. Managing for diversity is about more than checking boxes on forms. It’s accepting that different people can operate in different ways and still be effective.

      3. Specialk9*

        That’s why I was so stoked by the workaround offered at the end of Alison’s response, c/o someone else:

        “I haven’t had much success displaying more enthusiasm. Day-to-day, I’m fairly serious and focused. What actually seems to work is to get more serious and stern. At the end of an interview, I’ll pause, take a deep breath, and ask very seriously if I can talk a little bit about what my work means to me. Then I’ll give a little speech about my work – the difference we’ve made in our clients’ lives; how hard and how rewarding it is at the same time; the way I feel called to this work through my life experience – and blow their socks off not with how excited I am about the work, but how seriously I take our mission. I’ve developed a reputation for being serious and reserved, but in a way where my reserve is just a cover for the intense emotion I must be feeling all the time. I never need to fake ‘perky’ or ‘bubbly’ but no one questions my commitment.”


        1. Parcae*

          Ha, that comment’s mine. What a blast from the past!

          Looking back, I’ll add that there ARE some employers who can only be impressed through effusive emoting. It’s not a bad thing when I get screened out of those jobs, because demonstrativeness is part of their culture, and I’d never be happy working somewhere that expected me to perform emotion all day. Better to figure out the disconnect in the interview than realize six months into the job that there is no minimum number of pieces of flair that will make my boss happy.

    2. Temperance*

      THIS. I am not an overly effusive or emotionally expressive person. I care deeply about many causes and people, and will do a great job advocating for those things. I just am not overly performative. My friends have jokingly called me Daria for how I talk about things I am excited about, lol.

      1. Alienor*

        Haha! I was in college when Daria was originally on the air, and it promptly became my nickname with everyone I knew. 20 years on, my daughter and I like to joke that we’re Daria and Jane.

  4. Roscoe*

    My company is like this. We aren’t “exactly” a non profit, but very mission focused. I often think we put far too much emphasis on the “passion” part and not enough on the skill part. Luckily, I got in when we were fairly small, and they needed the skill to grow more than they do now. But I honestly don’t think I’d get the job now since the passion part has become even bigger. I like our mission, I don’t love it. I’d rather be doing good than not, but its a job, thats it. I don’t think about it when I leave, nor am I super committed to the mission.

    But as Alison said, if they really want someone like that, you may not have been a good culture fit anyway

  5. CoffeeLover*

    Honestly, I do think you need to fake it a little. Some companies – whether private or non-profit – really buy into their own brand/culture/mission. With non-profit you can understand it, but it happens with private companies too (I’m interviewing with one now.) While I don’t think you should go to the level of “it has always been my dream to work here,” I do think you should aim to convince your interviewer that this role and organization is the absolute perfect fit for you at this moment (a “dream job” if you will). You need to lay it on thicker with some companies than with others when it comes to your admiration of their culture/mission.

    To be fair though, this could be personal. I’ve never really cared about a particular company or position so I’ve always had to fake it. If you’re genuinely motivated but have trouble showing that motivation, then it’s not so much faking it as it is adding a little showmanship.

    1. k.k*

      A way to make it easier to convince the interviewer, is to convince yourself first. I’m applying for jobs in the nonprofit sector, and with a lot of them at first glace I don’t have much of a connection or passion for the mission. So I spend some time sort of forcing the connection. For example, let’s say I’m applying to a “save the whales” org. I have nothing against whales, but don’t think about whales daily. But maybe I’ll think back to a childhood vacation to the coast where I saw a whale, or how I always liked Free Willy, and then look at some of the work the organization is doing. Basically anything to get me thinking, “Hey, they’re actually doing some pretty cool stuff!” That way, while I may be exaggerating when I say I’m passionate about them, at least there’s something genuine behind it.

    2. Second Lunch*

      I like to compare it to a driving test. Yes, you can check your mirrors with your eyes normally, but it doesn’t hurt to make a conscious effort to turn your head to make sure that it’s clear to the evaluator.

  6. LNZ*

    This can be so demoralizing. I’m currently doing national service and the CEO of the org I’m with actually straight out said at a all staff meeting one day she didn’t want people working here who were just working for a pay check. I legit took this position cause i had no other options and needed the pay check. It was incredibly disheartening to have to endure that speech and the following youtube video of some motivational speaker on how you only want employees with passion.
    I was just like well i’ll see my self out then guys jeez.

      1. LNZ*

        And this org has a super high turn over with their actual employees cause they pay crap.
        The CEO is really nice but has some odd ideas too. Like to stress how important the dress code is, even on casual Friday, she told us how she went to a bank on a Friday once and the teller was wearing a Winnie the Poo sweater. The CEO saw that changed banks instantly, including complaining to said employees boss, cause she figured someone wearing something so silly couldn’t be trusted with her money.

        1. Optimistic Prime*

          I mean…do they think that wearing a Winnie the Pooh sweater somehow affects their ability to count money or understand requests? I wonder how they feel about the fact that the people who make all of the technology they use are probably wearing ratty jeans and an old band/video game/comic book t-shirt right now.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            I realize banks’ target market is people with, y’know, more money than just “comfortably above the poverty line” but I would *love* to see my teller wearing a Winnie the Pooh shirt. Most banks’ entire layout and marketing might as well say YOU ARE NOT WORTHY in neon lights. Discreet, formal neon lights that make me feel intimidated to admit that I don’t entirely understand them.

        2. Temperance*

          I mean, I dislike most character clothing on adults, but I would at least have the decency to not a.) change banks and b.) report the poor teller to her boss.

    1. Jadelyn*

      Our org president is kinda like that. The number 1 reason people leave, based on our exit interviews, is pay. When we bring that to his attention, he waves it off by saying “If they’re willing to leave just to make more money, they weren’t committed to the mission and we wouldn’t want them staying anyway.”

      Like…bro, some of us have rents to pay and cats to feed, and I’m committed to the mission, but I’m also committed to being able to live comfortably and not subjecting myself and my partner to unnecessary financial stress because y’all are paying me half what I could be getting elsewhere. When you’re talking about someone making $100k a year who leaves to go to a for-profit where they can make $150k a year, you might have a point – maybe – because $100k should be plenty to live on even here where the cost of living is outrageous and at that point it really is just a profit motive, but when you’re talking about line staff who make $14 an hour, which is nowhere near a living wage in this area, that line of reasoning just doesn’t hold up. They’re not leaving *for more money*, they’re leaving *to try to climb out of poverty*. And if you really think people should prioritize an organization’s mission over their own financial stability and survival, you’re nuts.

      Sadly, I’ve never quite had the opportunity and/or the brass ones to actually say that whole thing to him. I daydream about it though. *sigh*

      1. LNZ*

        Yeah, and she’s been in the org for 30 years so there is a lot of other crap about how things should be too

  7. TeacherNerd*

    I think, too, that there are a lot of people out there who are really terrible at recognizing others’ emotions. Even by close family members, for example, in the past I’ve been accused of not being upset after a life-altering terrible event because how I display my emotions wasn’t recognizable by the person making the accusation; I think that a lot of people tend largely to recognize how emotions are projected if those emotions are displayed the same way that others project them. For example, if something really upsetting happens to you, and the way you handle it is to talk about it non-stop, you might only (unconsciously) attribute distress in those who also talk about the issue non-stop. This might be something similar with your job prospect; they were looking for people to display their ZOMGPASSION in a certain way, which is not YOUR way. One way is not better than the other; it’s just different.

    1. Optimistic Prime*

      Yeah, I get that a lot on the negative end. People are always like “you’re so bubbly/happy/effusive all the time!”, but they also think that I don’t get stressed or sad or frustrated because I express it quite differently than they do. One of my close friends pointed out that she kind of figured it out only because she interacts with me so much – “you’re still nice, but it becomes more fake/strained nice than real nice.” LOL.

  8. Snark*

    This is REAAAAAALLLLLL common in the nonprofit world, too, where sometimes it feels like you’re joining a cult rather than accepting a labor for pay economic agreement.

    1. AnotherCultChildhood*

      I get lots of culty feels from when people talk about working at some nonprofits. I’m hypersensitive to those dynamics of spiritual abuse – and a Mission with capital M can evoke similar dynamics as a religion, because we people are wired the same regardless of belief system. I find the straightforward dynamics of for-profit to be comforting. Buuuuuuut that’s my baggage.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        0.o I’m a total pushover for that sort of thing and it’s good that I was raised by scientists because otherwise I would 100% be in a cult now…but NOT AT WORK.

      2. MissDissplaced*

        Ugh! I hate all that Rah Rah Sis BoomBah stuff too. I like my job, but it’s not “life” you know.
        I expect this from some nonprofits, but when you see it in Corp world it’s even more scary!

    2. J.*

      This has absolutely been my experience in the non-profit world as well. And it’s often code for “work obscenely long hours for low pay, and you can’t complain about it.”

    3. Fake old Converse shoes*

      Yes. A few weeks ago my client gave away leftover merch to their employees, and they were so desperate to get something with the company’s logo on it that they fought over t-shirts, pens, notepads, stickers and baseball caps! (I swear it was super embarrassing to watch) Thankfully they forgot to include us.

    4. Jiya*

      Where it truly gets hilarious is when it happens in the for-profit world – when I was in law school I’d get BigLaw firms expecting that type of commitment. Guys, do you think anyone joins up for 90-hour workweeks because of their love of transactional tax law?

  9. Ms. Pear*

    If you’re specifically in communications, I can see where “excitement” or “passion” might come into play more than other positions within the same non-profit. I’m director of communications for a non-profit, and a large part of my job is sharing the mission with others. Excitement for what we do is essential in motivating people to get involved with our organization AND to financially support it. If the position the OP was interviewing for involves volunteer/donor interaction, whether through print, social media or in person, I can see where they might be looking for someone who is more openly enthusiastic.

    By the way, best of luck to you in your job search, OP. With your skills and background, I’m sure you’ll find a good fit for you soon.

  10. Isben Takes Tea*

    I find it disheartening when companies look for people “with passion” instead of those who are “aligned to our mission.” Passion is a feeling, and no matter how ardent, it will fluctuate and/or burn out over time. I’m also wary of the requirement of “passion,” whether it be for an organization’s mission or “the brand,” as it has been exemplified over and over on this site as a substitute for “reasonable work/life balance expectations.”

    Good luck, OP!

    1. Emma*

      I like this way of putting it. I’ve just started a new job at a non-profit, and I got it by talking about the problems that one of their Mission Issues causes my clients in my other job, positives and negatives of the new company’s solutions from my perspective in my other role, and a project that I am attempting to set up in order to address some related issues. It wasn’t really passionate, and it didn’t demonstrate much skill beyond basic networking – but it demonstrated that I had thought about their mission, that I am invested in it in my own way, and that I care enough to think critically and to evaluate different approaches to working toward it.

      Of course, you’re not always going to be in a position to do this kind of talking so I’m not saying this is an Interview Tip, but I think it’s a nice demonstration of “aligned with our mission” as an effective alternative to passion.

  11. Brett*

    I’ve been pretty involved in tech volunteerism. Getting skilled computer science and IT people to help out non-profits and government agencies with complex problems they are encountering, regardless of whether the problems have a clear IT solution.
    Barely anyone goes into a specific volunteer project with a driving passion for the mission. Instead, they have a desire to solve problems and make the world better. And with their skill set, they often come up with some amazing solutions.
    Though one of our main problems is that some of their solutions are so disruptive to current workflows that the agencies they are helping will not adopt them and that can lead to some contentious debate about mission with the agency and within the agency. We had one volunteer project where the solution cut the time of a services-providing workflow by about 95%, and the non-profit involved refused to adopt it because they did not know what they would do with the workers who were currently supporting the workflow.

  12. Ramona Flowers*

    I work for a non-profit. We want to see some passion for, and interest in, our mission – but that doesn’t mean you have to fake anything. Rather, you need to talk about why our work is important, why it’s needed, what it’s for, not just why you think you’d enjoy being here.

    I happen to be really passionate about what I do. There is nothing I want to do more. But both I, and someone who just wants a job, any job, can both enthuse equally about why we are needed and what an impact we are making.

    And honestly we get enough candidates who can show some enthusiasm that we don’t need to hire people who don’t care.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      PS this is because it’s hard to do a good job if you don’t care, with the kind of work we do. Won’t apply everywhere.

    2. J.*

      But the thing is, people have different presentations about what their feelings and passion are. Just because someone isn’t superficially enthusiastic doesn’t mean they don’t have a deep belief and passion for the mission, and it certainly doesn’t mean they “don’t care.”

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I think you’ve missed my point? It’s about the content of what you say, not the style in which you say it.

  13. Caroline_Herschel*

    I actually think about this a lot and I’m interested to see the comments here. I work in nonprofit operations, and am in a similar boat – I care about using my skills and experience to have a positive impact on the world, but the work I do is relevant to wide range of organizations. While I obviously have issues that are important to me and particular viewpoints, the reality is that they don’t narrow the field incredibly significantly. I’m really curious how you convey enthusiasm and passion for the work without pretending you’ve been waiting to work on a particular issue your whole life.

    What worked for me in my last job search was to do a little extra research and articulate what I found compelling about that organization as compared to others in the same field – so for instance, “I’m so impressed by how your programs touch this issue at every scale, from individual assistance to policy change” or something like that.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      You don’t need to pretend anything. You just need to be able to put the organisation’s work in context and show you appreciate and value that.

  14. Justin*

    I think for me, the key is to find a way in. I work in the nexus between academia and gov’t and nonprofit work. But from day to day, I teach gvt employees systems and processes. That sounds dull, right? And I’m not actually directly helping the citizens who come to gov’t offices. However, I found a way to truly care about said gov’t employees, and my genuine affection and enthusiasm (not the same as effusiveness, as noted above, though I’m pretty effusive on occasion) for these workers carries the day, even though I’m not super passionate about everything I teach.

  15. Hope*

    OP, it’s also worth keeping in mind that sometimes, the expectation for over-the-top enthusiasm also translates to “crappy pay/hours/expectations” because they’re hoping the enthusiasm for the mission will override those concerns. Not always, but it’s definitely a possibility.

  16. Jam Today*

    My cynical-GenXer take is that the want you to have “passion” so they can short you on “pay”. If you’re passionate about a thing, you’d willingly take less money to do it, because you love it SO MUCH, RIGHT?!?

    Whereas if you were merely enthusiastic, or just perhaps competent and really good at what you do and could add a lot of value, you might expect a paycheck commensurate with your abilities.

    1. selina kyle*

      Bingo – I think it also pushes people (especially younger people) to do more than the next person to “prove” their passion.

    2. Marthooh*

      Yep! This reminded me of the October 26 post “is it okay to be honest about just being in it for the money?” The LW was having a hard time making ends meet with her nonprofit job, and her boss wanted the poorly paid staff to do some kind of do-it-for-the-mission-instead-of-the-money training.

  17. Guacamole Bob*

    What other feedback have you gotten over your career? If either my wife or I had this experience with a job search, I would attribute it to how we present ourselves. I’ve been told that I seem kind of reserved or aloof when I’m in new situations until I get to know people. I think I’ve loosened up over the years as I’ve gotten more comfortable in my career, but I tend towards formal or a bit overly professional when I’m in stressful situations. An interviewer looking for “passion” could easily decide I don’t have it, especially if other candidates are more naturally effusive, unless they are able to interpret my level of nerdery about my chosen field as a type of passion.

    Everyone who has ever given my wife feedback on a presentation (including me) tells her that she’s very good on the technical aspects and is well-spoken, but she comes across as kind of blah on the enthusiasm front. In order to hit “normal” on the enthusiasm meter, she has to act in ways that feel very over-the-top to her, almost cartoonish. I think she comes across as more emotive in one-on-one conversations or small groups (it’s a little hard to tell since I know her so well), but I can still imagine an interviewer deciding she lacked passion, even if she felt strongly about something.

    If you know yourself to be a bit on the low-key/formal/reserved side, then maybe you will need to fake it a bit in order to convey the enthusiasm you feel in a way that interviewers will understand.

  18. cornflower blue*

    I’m a quiet, serious person unless I’m among extremely close friends. I also have RBF. When that dreaded “what is your weakness” question comes up in an interview, I take advantage of the chance to address that. Something like this: “I tend to come across as remote and withdrawn, when I’m actually just more of a listener than a talker. Colleagues have told me that they respect my dedication once they get to know me, so I’m trying to be more conscious of my demeanor with people I’m just meeting.”

  19. Jen*

    I had the opposite happen to me once. I had interviewed for a position that seemed great. I am naturally very low-key. I didn’t get the job and was told that it was because I was too perky and bubbly. I have to say that I am the complete opposite of perky and shudder at the thought of being called bubbly. I am super quiet and reserved so if they think that I am perky then I guess they are looking for someone without a pulse. I am about as boring and quiet as it gets. I got a good laugh out if it and moved on. So I guess what I am saying is that it might not too you at all. The interviewers might be just looking for someone with an unusually high level of enthusiasm, which thankfully you won’t see with every potential employer.

  20. Talia*

    I’ve been having a similar problem in my own job search– I keep getting asked “Why do you want to work here?” and the honest answer to that is “it’s a job in the area of my field that I’m specializing in”. Which is a thing I am passionate about and I have no trouble communicating that I’m passionate about that, but the answer they want is something like “I am deeply connected to THIS SPECIFIC COMMUNITY already”– this is *always* the answer they want– and it’s just not true in most communities. (The things that differentiate any one of these jobs from any other of these jobs are things I won’t know about until I actually work there and won’t even have an idea about until the interview, namely workplace culture and management style. Other than pay, that is literally the *only* thing differentiating these jobs.)

  21. PolarBear*

    I work in the Defence sector and my manager’s motto is “we don’t all work here for the money, we are doing vital work supporting our troops.”

    I just roll my eyes. He’s on a six figure salary. I am…not. The day I win the lottery I am out of there. To me it’s just a job that enables me to pay my mortgage and live a comfortable life. My boyfriend is a military officer but I definitely to not live and breathe military life.

    1. Jam Today*

      I used to work for a company like that, they were all SUPER JAZZED about working there and everything was all about the culture (they used to have a cutesy name for themselves, too), they all socialized together, I mean these people were *all in*, and I was like “if I win Powerball, none of you will ever see me again”.

  22. The Unexpected Dragon*

    I just wrapped up a batch of interviews and this issue has come up for some of the people I talked with. I don’t need folk bubbling over with excitement, but I still would prefer them to find the project I’m hiring for interesting. If they don’t seem genuinely interested in the job (test of skills, career step, care about the organization, whatever), how can I know that they will stick around for the long haul? It’s a tricky balance

  23. SC Anonibrarian*

    I just got out of a webinar where the key takeaway for motivating people is to be a ‘safe space’ for them to admit their problems with work and to make the work environment ‘fun.’

    I’m like – front line staff don’t want FUN, they want insurance and a decent paycheck and a bit of a break from being micro-managed by our craptacular software requirements. If someone heads out on interviews and expects applicants to also be ‘performatively’ passionate and engaged with the job’s mission, they’ve got some seriously privileged nerve.

    1. The Unexpected Dragon*

      Not sure I follow. Yes, some people just need work. That’s true and fair. It also holds that given the choice between, “I find this interesting and my skills could be useful here” is almost always going to be hired over “I guess I can do that”. If the work is interchangeable, so be it, but you still have to sell yourself as a skill fit.

  24. RB*

    OP, I think you may have dodged a bullet. If they are so single-mindedly focused on passion or enthusiasm, they would be looking to fault you at every turn, just for being your regular self. I don’t think that would end, once you got the job, in fact it might have increased.

  25. Edina Monsoon*

    I used to work for a family run business that sold home appliances and they expected passion with a capital P, they genuinely thought that we should love working there and live and breathe the products. You absolutely could not say anything positive about a competitors product at all, it was weird, and there is only so much excitement I can show about motorised blinds!

    It really felt as though the owners were living in a fantasy land. I was so glad when I moved to a firm that outsources for customer services and it was generally acknowledged that we were all pretending to be passionate about whatever our current client does, but everyone knows you’re there to get paid and there’s no expectation of weekend work or unpaid overtime.

  26. Someone else*

    Of course it’s hard to say without greater detail, but my first impulse when I read the letter was that the LW did seem to communicate not only an interest in the company, but a few very good reasons why she’d be a good fit. This would read as enough “passion” for me, based on her description of the events. It’s very possibly the company does just plain want someone more effusive, so if she’s not, bad fit avoided, no big deal. But the other thing I thought of was, perhaps she was well qualified but they didn’t really have anything bad to say about her candidacy, so instead of saying nothing, or saying “sorry but another candidate were stronger” they chose this explanation as sort of a cop out? Or as a shorthand for intangible reasons they just liked whoever they hired better. I might be totally wrong, but since the question is about whether faking passion is necessary, I wanted to throw that out there. I’ve worked for non-profits for most of the working life, and while some really do want someone who is conspicuously about the mission, most I’ve found don’t. As long as you’re not obviously opposed to the mission, there’s no reason to fake extra enthusiasm. What the LW said here would, for me, be enough. So the “passion” line may not have really meant what it sounded like it meant.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      When I was younger and in a different area, I would occasionally get let go from a job and they’d give me really nasty, unhelpful feedback. “We decided we just don’t like you. We don’t know why, but we don’t like you.” “You’re stupid. You’ll never do anything with your life.” (Real examples.) This sucked at the time. Post college, working in the service industry because there weren’t many professional level employers in the area.

      In hindsight, I realize these were just unhappy people releasing their frustrations. I’ll never know why they fired me or what inspired those kinds of comments, but I think it says more about them than me. If someone is well meaning and level headed, they’ll phrase things in a constructive way. If they don’t, write it off, walk away, and don’t look back.

  27. Anon anon anon*

    I’m skeptical. This sounds like unusually negative feedback to give at the end of an interview. Usually, people involved in hiring don’t offer constructive criticism to rejected candidates, or if they do, they’re very polite about it. “Your skills are currently not a match for what we’re looking for,” things like that. It makes me wonder if this was just one person blowing off steam, not something reflective of the organization.

    That said, yes, you do have to show interest in the job. At some places, they want to see effusive emotional enthusiasm. At other places, asking good questions is enough.I’m kind of low key as opposed to bubbly so I avoid places that seem to go for the Show Us Your Passion mentality.

  28. Den*

    The talks about having some degree of passion and enthusiasm makes me feel like I am doomed or it will be a steep, uphill climb moving forward. I do run heavily on emotions, but I’m a very quiet, non-social, non-expressive, non-excitable person and rarely moved by things, like I feel real detached about things around me. I work in a low paying, computer tutor job, helping adults on Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint work for a few years. I care little about the work, and indifferent about the people I help. I simply do what I do that for some reason people like the way I help them out, and bring effective results.

    Work is work, and money is money, even if it isn’t much. I wouldn’t know where else to go or what genuinely interests me/tolerate enough. When I see a lot of talks or requirements about seeking an enthusiastic, passionate person, I apply anyways because who knows, but it gets me down. Feeling like I am stuck in a nation of super extroverts. One of the struggles of questioning my place on where I belong out here.

  29. AliceW*

    I have faked interest, enthusiasm and passion in every job interview I have ever had. I work only for a paycheck and early retirement. I have been very successful at interviewing and I am a bright, hard working self-starter. But yes, I tell them what they want to hear. Because if I told them I’ve been waiting to retire since the day I graduated college and I am only interested in the position because it pays a lot of money, I wouldn’t have gotten any of the jobs I’ve had.

    1. Anon anon anon*

      And that’s why work/non-work boundaries are so important. Most jobs involve playing a role and you can’t play that role 24/7.

  30. Faith-based nonprofit Comms Manager*

    Just wanted to offer an additional perspective as someone who works as a Communications Manager at a faith-based, non-profit advocacy organization: We’ve had candidates interview before where it was clear they thought the fact that they identified as a person of faith/shared our faith tradition made them the right candidate but demonstrated very little knowledge about the actual issues we worked on. In these cases, it was an easy decision to go with someone more knowledgeable about the issues who weren’t necessarily motivated by faith.

    The faith-based non-profit world is such a wide spectrum of ideology, so that might not be the case here. But, I’ve definitely walked away from interviews realizing that the candidate was more motivated by the perceived faith ideology than actually being motivated by/passionate about the mission of the organization.

  31. Jewish organization*

    I had a similar experience while working at a Jewish org. I got some serious side eye for planning a vacation to India instead of Israel. No one would understand why I’d ever want to travel anywhere else. I also once asked a colleague while waiting for a subway if she had read any good books recently and she glared and said she only read things about the Israel-Palestine conflict and Jewish culture. I didn’t know how to respond to that one. They also explicitly said after I was brought on that they “didn’t do raises” because if we were working there, we should care enough about the mission that we’d do the work for free. I was a terrible fit there. Sure, I cared about the mission, but it was too intense. I’ve got lots of interests! Also, I need money!

  32. Drama Llama*

    I declined an applicant last week for answering “honestly, I’m just looking for any kind of job” in response to “why do you want to work here?” It’s a customer service role, so I don’t expect anyone to pretend it’s a glamorous Dream Job (TM). I do, however, look for some interest in pursuing this kind of role as a long term career. Otherwise the downsides of this industry will lead to a quick burn out and loss of interest. I also want to screen out anyone who simply wants to earn some cash while they look for a “real” job.

    On the other hand, I also previously had a response of “I REALLY want to work here – I would cut off my right arm for you.” Um, okay then. That was a no, too.

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