"Enthusiasm&quo t; in job interviews.

(14 Posts)
BlingLoving Thu 15-Aug-13 10:24:33

I've been looking for a new job recently. I've had a number of good interviews but ultimately, I have yet to find something. As a result, I've been thinking carefully about what I could do differently to improve my chances when I meet people.

One thing I noticed when I started thinking about it, is that I often get feedback that I'm very "enthusiastic" or "energetic". Usually this is in the context of, "she's very enthusiastic and energetic but ultimately we didn't feel she had quite the right skill set." Eventually, I came to the conclusion that these words were not in fact positive, but were rather euphimisms for "puppy dog-like eagerness". I decided to make a real effort in future to tone that down.

Then I had an interview recently that went very well. I consciously planned ahead to be less "enthusiastic" and when I met with the woman, we had a very helpful conversation and she asked me to come back and meet some colleagues next week.

Success you think? But then I started thinking about it, and I realised that a) I really am not sure that any man would ever be referred to as "enthusiastic" or "energetic" and b) even worse, that I found it easier to be more moderate and considered when meeting with a woman. I realised that all my recent interviews have been with men and in every single one I've felt like I have to prove myself. I've felt like I have to be sweet, and nice, and enthusiastic. But when I met with the woman, I did not feel the same way.

I'm struggling to articulate this but would be interested in other views. Both on whether these are words that are less obviously sexist than "strident" or "hysterical" but have the same affect and whether I'm naturally changing my interview style according to the gender of the person I'm meeting? That terrifies me and just demonstrates that the patriachy is absorbed in us so deeply that even when we strongly identify as feminists, we're still subject to the same instinctive responses that women have been subtly encouraged to do for years.

comingalongnicely Thu 15-Aug-13 11:46:24

I'm a male & I've used "enthusiastic" when referring to male applicants that haven't been successful. I've always seen it as a positive. I'm normally recruiting to fill a specific technical role & if someone hasn't got the skills I need I may still have taken them over a less enthusiastic applicant as willingness to do the job is nearly as important as the skill in my eyes.

Hope that helps....

takeaway2 Thu 15-Aug-13 11:51:23

well I'm surprised they've not had a more balanced interview panel - there's usually at least one 'token' female there to make up the numbers.

having said that, I'm female and I recently described an applicant as 'less than enthusiastic' but that had to do with her personality rather than her ability to do the job. She's obviously less 'puppy-dog like eager' than say you might be...! smile she got the job though, because of the skill set. Ideally though if she had been 'enthusiastic' it would have been less of a struggle to appoint her...!

JacqueslePeacock Thu 15-Aug-13 13:24:00

I think lots of enthusiasm might be seen as somehow unprofessional or lacking in gravitas (although of course it depends what the job is). But I agree with you that this is a charge much more often levelled at women. I think it's a lot harder for a women to appear to have gravitas in a professional setting than it is for a man, simply because the characteristics frequently identified with it are often typically"male" sorts of things.

And I wouldn't be at all surprised at the idea you present yourself differently for a male and for a female interviewer - I would think most of us do, albeit probably subconsciously. On the other hand, the fact that you have done better in an interview with a woman than in the ones with men might say something about her/them rather than about you...

BlingLoving Thu 15-Aug-13 15:06:58

Takeaway - there aren't any token women in these interviews because in what I do, the most senior people are often men (even though the people doing the grunt work are overwhelmingly female). At my level, I'm also finding that the majority of the time the role goes to a male candidate. I try not to let that get me down.

treaclesoda Thu 15-Aug-13 15:13:43

Its an interesting dicussion. On the opposite side of things, I struggle to show enthusiasm, because of the way I was brought up. My father (a good man, but an old fashioned man) was very adamant when I was growing up that one of the worse qualities anyone could have was boasting, and I remember when I was young I asked him to proof read a job application form I had done. When I tried to do all the right things, point out my good points etc, he was horrified and said it was awful to see me being so full of myself and that wasn't the way I was raised. He insisted that any decent employer would appreciate modesty, as it was an appealing characteristic. I have never been able to shake this off, as it was drilled into me throughout every aspect of my life, and I don't think its a huge coincidence that despite being capable, and getting good performance reviews etc anywhere that I ever worked, I never was able to move forward my my career, as I struggled to even get an interview, because I just can't bring myself to boast about my good points.

Its only in later years that I have realised that I don't think my brother was getting the same advice about modesty.

JacqueslePeacock Thu 15-Aug-13 15:25:39

There's a difference between enthusiasm for the job, though, and an enthusuiasm for yourself, surely?

Although it's interesting what you say about not giving the same advice re. modesty to your brother. I'm sure it's much more seen as a "women's virtue".

treaclesoda Thu 15-Aug-13 15:33:41

Yes, I agree, enthusiasm for the job isn't the same as enthusiasm for yourself. But I think its hard to separate the two in the job hunting process in a way. Even saying 'I think I could do this job because in the past I've achieved X,Y and Z' would fall into the category that I've been raised to believe is boasting.

Thing is, whilst a man isn't taught to be modest in the same way, its often the case that he doesn't need to talk himself up anyway, because a man is often assumed to be competent whereas a woman has to prove that she is competent against the assumption that she is not, if you know what I mean.

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 15-Aug-13 15:35:56

That's very true treaclesoda. Your last paragraph really resonated with me.

BlingLoving Thu 15-Aug-13 15:38:58

I think that's very true Treacle. In a conversation, I can comment about what I think is necessary or what the issues are but unless I can point to when I did something exactly the same previously, they won't consider me. But men don't seem to have that same problem. I certainly saw that in the last role I interviewed for.

In terms of the enthusiasm, it's hard to explain the issue but I think that there's sense that having ideas and thoughts is almost desperate. I'd love to be a fly on the wall when these men who keep getting these jobs are interviewed.

On the last one, they chose a man who didn't have anything like my experience, but to be fair, I think he was a lot cheaper than me.

EBearhug Thu 15-Aug-13 23:46:22

well I'm surprised they've not had a more balanced interview panel - there's usually at least one 'token' female there to make up the numbers.

Very rarely been interviewed by women in my field, simply because there just aren't that many there - very techy area of IT. (Interview before last was a man and a woman, though.) I think I have sometimes got an interview just for the sheer novelty factor and equal opportunity stats - I do have a very good looking CV, but I'm sure being female does help a bit.

But anyway - we've had men being described as enthusiastic when interviewed. I don't think it's a bad thing at all. (It doesn't last long once they actually start working with us, mind you!) But you do need the technical know-how as well as enthusiasm in my field, and if it's all you've got going for you, it's probably not enough (we do sometimes have vacancies for trainees, but mostly we want people who will be up and running quickly, and the only learning they need is internal procedures.)

I think it often is easier for men to boast about their achievements (not to mention exaggerate massively in one or two cases.) Nice girls don't do that sort of thing. I'm trying to do that more (I'm not sure I'm particularly popular anyway, so I've got nothing to lose anyway), and also, recognise more of my own achievements - in my last interview, they picked up on something and were clearly impressed by it, though I was just mentioning it in passing, and had almost not bothered mentioning it at all, and it did make me wonder whether I usually do sell myself short (not helped by a manager who simply hasn't recognised anyone's achievements or abilities, if they're not part of the favoured few, and another one who says, "Well, you only tell shops and so on when they've done a bad job, don't you, and it's no different here." <sigh>)

I find it odd what managers focus on anyway. Mine was going on about how good it was that I called out an engineer and arranged to meet him on site to fix a problem. I think that's a pretty basic part of our job role, and barely worth a mention. Whereas, proactively writing and presenting a training session for the rest of the team for a new system we had to use got barely a mention, and I thought it was one of my major achievements of the year. It does make it difficult to judge what I really am good at in the eyes of others, which does make it a challenge to know what to focus on at interview.

And the other problem is that what might seem as unnecessary over-enthusiasm for one interviewer might be ticking all the right boxes for another one, so there aren't any hard and fast rules, you always have to play it by ear a bit.

comingalongnicely Fri 16-Aug-13 08:22:40

I dug out my CV &, as I thought, describe myself as being "enthusiastic" in it so, getting back to your original post, I really don't see being described as enthusiastic as a negative or sexist comment.
If it helps, I'd be more nervous about being interviewed by a woman and would change my style accordingly. Very possibly because I know that any female in that position has very likely had to earn it rather than just gravitating to it over time & is less likely to be blagged!

arsenaltilidie Fri 16-Aug-13 09:05:10

I've felt like I have to be sweet, and nice, and enthusiastic

If you act 'sweet' people may like you but no one will take you seriously.

A lot of women tend to play the 'sweet' card which often doesn't help in the long run.

Take yourself seriously, it's your career on the line.

badguider Fri 16-Aug-13 09:13:24

I think that 'puppy dog like enthusiasm' can be a sign of an imbalance of power - you generally only see it from somebody who is or feels on a lower step of the power ladder.
Obviously in an interview the candidate is in a position of lack of power compared to the panel, and a candidate who comes across as thinking themselves the equal of the panel will only impress in some fields where unshakeably self-confidence ( being a twat? ) is valued.

But I think when the job is of a particular level, the panel also has to see that the candidate does not always fall into that lower level of interaction.

You've only referred to one situation where you felt you could interact on more of a level footing and that interviewer happened to be a woman so I don't think that's enough to identify a pattern yet... but it is worth considering... do you come across as more 'eager to please' with the men beause they come across as more powerful? it wouldn't be suprising since in most organisations the men ARe more powerful.

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