After 20 years, I’m still learning from college campus recruiting.

It’s fall recruiting time on college campuses, and that means I’m learning something new! Being at the campus, experiencing the hustle and bustle, and interviewing the next generation, almost always inspires new ideas, reminds me of lessons learned, and provides learning opportunities.

Today’s Reminder: Enthusiasm Counts! The enthusiasm the students exude during interviews is refreshing. Maybe it’s the newness of interviewing and the possibility of starting a career that inspires the silent (but ever present) mantra exuding from almost every student: See me. Pick me. Rarely do I experience the same enthusiasm from interviews off-campus. And, while I can’t select every student, it does make me want to help all students in their search for the right position to start their career.

While I didn’t bottle that enthusiasm on campus, the reminder that enthusiasm matters is quite clear. The lesson is similar to the one orators, actors and comedians know all too well. Each time you step up to the podium or leap onto the stage, you have to make the audience feel the fresh appeal of your message. There’s no room for just going through the motions or phoning “it” in! If you want to make a connection, persuade an audience, or build enthusiasm for you or your brand, you’ve got to come across as excited about your performance the 100th time, as you were the first time.

Enthusiasm counts on phone interviews and during in-person meetings. No, I’m not suggesting you develop a fake personality, or keep a smile screwed onto your face during an entire meeting. You should always be sincere. But if you aren’t excited about an interview, it’s going to be difficult for the interviewer to be excited about you.

Demonstrating Enthusiasm. As an experienced candidate, there are several ways to demonstrate enthusiasm. Below are just a few comments that may spark some ideas:

  • Research and Conversation. Sure you visited the website and checked social media, but did you delve into something to find an interesting kernel that not everyone perusing information would find? Or did the information you found generate questions about how the person/company was able to accomplish something? How will you naturally add this information into the conversation to excite your interviewer, and make you more memorable?
  • Answers with Hidden Smiles. When you are asked all those standard interview questions about tell me about the company, position, your accomplishments, etc., you have an excellent opportunity to exude enthusiasm. Find something good about each company and each position to throw into the mix, even if you left on bad terms, or had several bad experiences. Just like you start all critiques with the positive comments, so too should you have good things to say about each of your career moves. Remember though, you need to be sincere. Don’t sugar coat, as it’s difficult to answer why you left a situation that was so very rosy. You have an opportunity to control the direction of the conversation, and you should do so. For example, if you left a position because there was no work/life balance, there are probably some great projects you got to work on while you were at the company. Focus more on the opportunity you were provided, than on the awful hours. While you saw no path to decrease the 65 hour work weeks, the experience was worth the time. You learned x, discovered y, and contributed z.
  • How to Ask Questions. Finding out about hours, benefits, and why team members left may be important to you. However, there are other questions that you may want to ask that will get answers you want, and also set you apart from other candidates. Sometimes you can ask a question and communicate information simultaneously. For instance, “When I worked at ABC Corporation, I enjoyed working with Connie who was successful in part due to these traits/skills. What does it take to be successful in this position?

Hopefully, you learned a little from my college recruiting inspiration this month. May you exude enthusiasm in every interview!

LK Greer