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In job interview, passion packs a punch

How to ace a job interview? The key is to have enthusiasm, and show it. If you don't really care about getting the job, it's "deadly," says Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the best-selling "What Color is Your Parachute?" Conclusion of a two-part interview. Your Career by Eve Tahmincioglu.

If you’re not excited about a job or employer when you dive out of the job-hunting plane and apply for a new position, then you might as well leave your parachute at home.

Richard Nelson Bolles, author of “What Color is Your Parachute?”, maintains that landing a job once you get to the dreaded interview table is all about being enthusiastic and showing that to a prospective employer.

The following is the conclusion of my interview with the author of the best-selling book, still in print more than 30 years after its first edition:

Why is enthusiasm so important during the job interview?

You better be darn well interested in the interviewer and company. It’s deadly when you go to interview at a place, (and) you really don’t care if you get the job there or not.

The key is enthusiasm. Let’s say you’re somebody who is over 50, a baby boomer. What employers are looking for is they want to see energy. That comes from being fascinated by what you’re doing. You can hardly wait to get to work and have at it.

Lean forward in your chair, ask intelligent questions about the place and interview in places where you think you would love the work.

A lot of people just want to coast until retirement. No employer wants to hire that.

If it’s a place that interests you, the rule of thumb is that the employer talks 20 to 50 percent of time and you should talk 50 to 80 percent of time. If you don’t talk, or talk too little, you leave the employer thinking you are trying to hide something. If you talk all the time, you leave the employer feeling you are self-centered and that you are so concerned with what you can get out of it that you don’t even consider the company.

How do you impress the interviewer?

Companies love to be loved. Do your research, and you should be truly interested in the company and job you’re applying to.

Hunting for a job is more like dating than anything else. You have to size up each other.

I insist that the person who is doing the hunting for work need to think of him or herself in a different way.

Normally people think they are job beggars, that the employer has all the power and you are begging for a job. But I have insisted that people think of themselves as resource brokers. They have a resource to offer. Both of them have the right to say, “Yes, I like this,” or “No, I don’t like this.”

The employee is not only at the mercy of the employer. They are at the mercy of each other.

You talk in your book at length about conquering shyness. Can a shy person get their dream job? What’s the best way to overcome their shyness?

One way to overcome shyness is to go out and talk to people about any curiosity you have. We call this a practice survey. Maybe you are curious to find out how they pick out records at a classical radio station. Go into the station and ask about how they decide which records to play. Make it clear that it’s an informational interview about a job you don’t want.

What you’re doing is satisfying a curiosity.

I’ve had people go out and find out how weather predictions were made. We sent them out to airports, etc. Other people wanted to meet the coach of the Chicago Bears. If you go out and want to talk with somebody about your enthusiasm that has nothing to do with your job that kind of interview is great practice to get you over your shyness.


You can even take someone along with you who is not as shy as you are to help you out.

The next step, and this is useful when you want to change careers, is to always, always, always talk to the guy or gal who’s doing the work you’re thinking about doing. Don’t talk to their employer.

This is a way to find out what that work is really like when the rubber hits the road before you commit. Ask them what they like best, how they got in to it, what they like least. Ask them whom they recommend you talk to.

You talk about the 20-second and two-minute interview rule. Can you elaborate?

When you’re asking questions you don’t want to be a bore so your answer should last no more than two minutes. But you don’t want to answer “yes” or “no,” so try to take at least 20 seconds so you seem interested.

Think of questions to ask beforehand. You’ll have a lot of questions to ask if you look at the interview as needing information so you can figure out if you want to work there.

And don’t bring up salary until you’re pretty sure they are going to offer you a job, and typically they should bring it up first.

There’s typically a moment during the interview when you think, “hey, I’m nailing this.” How do you know you’re on your way there?

If the employer is asking about your deep past, where you grew up, that’s not a good sign if he or she stays there the entire interview. If the time sequence moves forward, such as, where did you work most recently? Where you see yourself in five years? That’s a good sign they’re interested in you.