Sometimes it is the simplest questions that catch us the most off guard. I know several hiring managers who ask a version of the question: What makes you happy in your chosen job or career? If you’re not asking this question of candidates, you might want to start. And if you’re not prepared to answer this question, you may want to give it some thought.
Several years ago Forbes identified the only three true job interview questions: Can you do the job? Will you love the job? Can we tolerate working with you? That second question is key. You may have all the credentials in the world and be fun to have around the office but it won’t matter if you don’t have a passion for the work.
In fact, there’s nothing the company can do to make up for a lack of heart. Gallup CEO Jim Clifton told Mark Crowley at Fast Company, “The idea of trying to make people happy at work is terrible. What companies will inevitably find is that the only way to make a person happy is to give them a job that matches well to their strengths, a boss who cares about their development, and a mission that gives them feelings of purpose.” This statement came after a recent Gallup survey that showed only 29 percent of U.S. employees were engaged at work. It is no secret that an engaged employee is more effective, so how can you demonstrate your passion in an interview?
Be honest, starting with your job search. Don’t waste your time applying for a job outside your passion area at a company you’ve heard is cool. After long, “cool” won’t get you out of bed in the mornings. Neither will flexible hours, being able to bring your dog to work, or catered lunches. Pursue work that you truly care about. And in the interview, be honest about what that is. Do you love the brainstorming process? Do you enjoy leading teams of artists? Reaching new audiences with innovative digital campaigns? Making complex ideas accessible? Speak about what truly excites you and the people in the room will be excited by you.
Before you go in to interview, find the links between your areas of interest and the role at hand. Consider not just what makes you happy, but which of those specific features, functions and opportunities you will find in this job. Connect your examples to the position and workplace so the hiring manager can envision your passion in their organization.
It may feel strange taking time to prepare for a question such as this, but not only might your answer get you the job—you might be reminded why you’re sending out cover letters, fixing your resume, and dressing up in the first place. Let us know: what makes you happy in your career?
Amy Segelin is the President and co-owner of Chaloner, a national executive search firm focused on communications, public relations, and marketing recruitment.
This story originally appeared on Chaloner’s The Interview Room blog.