Interviewing

10 Qualities to Emphasize Instead of Passion in a Job Interview

Passion Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be — 10 Qualities That Matter More In Interviews

Passion has been sold, particularly to millennials and those in generations younger, as the hallmark of a successful career. And in a lot of ways, it’s been oversold.

Finding a sense of fulfillment — a sense of purpose, even — in what you do each day matters. Of course, it does. When so much of our conscious lives are spent working, feeling apathetic toward your job, day in and day out, can take its toll. But so can the belief that you have to feel passionate about the way you’re pulling in a living. 

Much has been written about the link between “dream jobs” and what’s been branded as millennial burnout. Turns out, there are more important qualities than passion when it comes to crafting a sustainable career — and when it comes to acing an interview. Although you don’t want to sound completely dispassionate about the job at hand, emphasizing passion in the interview above all else is a mistake — even if certain cultures, like tech and startups, seem to reward it. 

Below, we heard from experts about the qualities that should, well above passion, be emphasized in an interview.

1. An adventurer’s mindset

Have a natural (or cultivated) knack for thinking innovatively? That’s well worth highlighting, Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director of Green Building Elements, said. 

“Today’s corporate environment, in my opinion, is more about innovating and building things that have never been built before — think blockchain, quantum computing, and genetic editing,” she said. “There is no prior knowledge of the technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Those who succeed are explorers, who are inquisitive, adaptive, and unafraid of the unknown.”

2. Emotional intelligence

Though it may by now seem overhyped, showing your emotional intelligence in an interview is never the wrong move, Tyson Stevens, Founder at EduRef, said. 

“In interviews, place a greater emphasis on soft skills rather than the traditional technique of reviewing experience and technical knowledge,” Stevens said. “While it is true that you must verify the hard talents listed on a resume, this is considerably easier to ‘prove’ than the Holy Grail of soft skills. In my opinion, emotional intelligence, or EQ, has a significant value for you and your team when taking on a new team member.”

3. A positive attitude

Having career passion doesn’t necessarily mean you’re easy to work with. Showing off your attitude in a positive light during an interview is “incredibly important,” Ciarán Hourican, Managing Director at H-Training, said.

“Even if you’re someone who’s fully qualified for a role, a negative outlook can see your CV being placed at the bottom of the candidate pile,” Hourican said.

“A negative view toward prior roles and experiences can be construed that you’re a candidate who would much rather focus on the bad than the good. This can be a difficult one to manage, as many people don’t even realize they’re coming across as negative in an interview. It’s incredibly important to be careful with your wording and focus on the positives in every situation, even if the outcome wasn’t ideal.”

4. Adaptability

If the past two years have shown us anything, it’s that adaptability is one of the most important traits an executive can have and one of the most important to demonstrate in an interview. 

“Adaptability is the most important trait that businesses look for in a new hire,” David Farkas, CEO of the Upper Ranks, said. “Many of us dislike change, but learning to adjust to constantly changing needs and goals in the job while maintaining a positive, problem-solving mindset can make you a priceless asset to your business. It will also help you stay relevant in your profession so that you can continue to be a valuable contributor in the future.”

5. Self-motivation

Often treated as synonymous with passion, Bartek Boniecki, Head of People at Passport Photo Online, believes self-motivation should be emphasized as a standalone trait. 

“In my opinion, self-motivation is a driving force of passion, which makes it a feature worth highlighting,” Boniecki said. “An employee who is self-motivated will be able to work independently regardless of the circumstances. It is a skill that demonstrates great resilience, vital in uncertain times. It may sound harsh, but passion is useless if you can’t put it into action.” 

6. Self-discipline

Equally as important as self-motivation, the ability to manage oneself is a crucial quality to demonstrate, Kamyar K.S, CEO of World Consulting Group, said. 

“Discipline is one of the most important qualities that a candidate can display,” he said. “The first sign of discipline is punctuality and regard for schedules. When a candidate shows that they respect their time and that of the interviewer and the organization in general, they are much more suited to being assigned tasks than individuals who are lax in time management.”

7. Curiosity

Showing potential employers that you’re intellectually curious is a must, Rodney Yo, Owner of Best Online Traffic School, said.

“Employers want to see that you’re enthusiastic about the job as a whole, as well as other aspects of the business — in other words, that you’re always eager to learn,” Yo said. “Your cover letter might be the start of showing your intellectual interest. Demonstrate to the employer that you’ve done your homework to learn about the organization and how the position you’re applying for integrates into the wider picture.”

8. Integrity

You should be cementing yourself as trustworthy and reliable — in other words, as someone with a high degree of integrity — at every step of the interviewing process, Daniel Foley, SEO Manager at MCS Rental Software, said. 

“It’s critical to speak what you mean and mean what you think when it comes to your job search,” Foley said. “If you inform a prospective employer that you’ll submit papers by a specific date, double-check that you’ll be able to meet that deadline. Otherwise, you risk giving your supervisor the impression that you are inconsistent, flaky, or untrustworthy. Standing by your word demonstrates honesty, integrity, and reliability, which are all intangible qualities that may help you stand out from the crowd.”

9. Self-awareness

There’s little worse than someone in a position of leadership who lacks self-awareness. Make an intentional effort to display this isn’t you, Tim Parker, Director of Marketing at Syntax Integration, said. 

“Being sensitive to other team members — and your boss’s needs, too — may go a long way, whether you’re working in a busy office or from the tranquility of your home office,” Parker said. “From having great communication with your colleagues to being ready to hand off a project to the next team member on time, you must be mindful of your actions and how they affect others. Working in a self-absorbed cocoon, at work or home, isn’t going to get you anywhere — or get you hired.”

10. Kindness

More than passion, kindness is one of the best — and simplest — ways to stand out in an interview, Foley said. 

“Kindness is an intangible talent that may go a long way toward impressing a hiring manager,” he said. “But being kind isn’t only for prospective coworkers or your future employer; it’s for everyone you meet along the route, from the security officer who handed you the building key to the hostess who asked for your name three times. Because, believe it or not, being nasty or short with others may rapidly spread—and have a negative influence on your prospects of getting recruited.”


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About the Author

As a writer, Liv McConnell is focused on driving conversations around workplace equity and the right we should all have to careers that see and support our humanity. Additionally, she writes on topics in the reproductive justice space and is training to become a doula.