In the November 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager makes a complaint and a request. Listen up:

I am speaking both as a frustrated hiring manager and as a job hunter. When I was job hunting, I always made it clear that I wanted the job. I expressed this verbally during the interview and in my thank-you letter. Now, as a (beginner) hiring manager, I want to ensure that positions are filled by qualified candidates who I know, undisputedly, want the job.

Can you discuss the importance of this basic and obvious technique in interviewing that is often overlooked? That is, the applicant must always say to the potential employer, “I want this job.” Of course, this must be based on a sincere desire for the position. What are your views on the importance of this statement?

A truncated version of my advice:
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There’s a footnote in one of my books about a sales vice president who interviewed for a job and failed to get the offer. He argued to me that making such an explicit statement is awkward and that it shows the candidate “has no class.”

My response to him: Failure to say you want the job indicates you aren’t worth hiring because you don’t have enough interest in working for the employer.

“Of course I want the job,” he exclaimed. ” That’s why I’m interviewing! The manager knows that!”

No, the manager doesn’t know that. Most jobs people interview for are jobs that come along, not jobs they really want. Most candidates don’t know they want a job until after they’ve met and talked with the manager at length. When the candidate makes a decision, the manager needs to hear it.

When you interview for a job and decide you want it, do you say it? “I want this job.” No, I don’t mean do you hem and haw and mince your words. I mean, do you say, “I want this job?”

I think if you don’t, you don’t deserve to be hired. (Would you expect someone to accept your marriage proposal if you don’t say, “I love you?”) If you’re a manager, I suggest you watch your next candidate, and listen carefully. Does she tell you she wants to work on your team? No? Hit the EJECT button. On to the next candidate!


  1. ” Hey, I have been recruited – you guys want me why should I ask for the job? The interviewer will see I am highly qualified and will want me on his team.”
    Where do I start? his cocky attitude? His strong opinion that he knows more about it than I do (I have been recruiting over twenty years, he has had two jobs, one from his Uncle)?
    I asked him if I should withdraw his name from consideration since he seemed to be dubious about the job and I did not want him to waste his time. ( not mine or my client’s either)
    His back-pedeling was impressive.
    Candidates for senior or very junior positions do not seem to have any problem with asking for the job.Middle Manager/Director level candidates,on the other hand,seem to feel there is something ‘awkward’ or ‘demeaning’ about it.

  2. A job interview is a mutual exploration, the employer deciding if the candidate is the right one for the job and the candidate deciding if the job is right for them. Looking at it this way, to say ‘Of course I want the job. That’s why I’m interviewing! The manager knows that.’ makes no sense at all. I’ve been in interviews where after five minutes I knew I could never work for that company/manager.

    Always ask for the job (if you want it!) at the end of an interview, during the closing hand shake is a good time, and do it again in your thank you note.

  3. Yes. Call it what you will. If you like what you’ve heard, want the job, & if “ask” doesn’t work for you, say the words that make it explicitly clear that you want the job, even better, that you want to join the company/organization/team.
    Here’s another way to look at it. Whatever level you’re at, a job hunter is in sales..selling YOU Inc. You’re the product/solution. After you’ve made your value proposition, your sales pitch selling yourself and your fit…Ask for the job..In sales it’s called closing. And closing is what sales is all about.
    That’s why to me Nick’s example of the Sales VP who felt it demeaning to “ask” for a job was a stunning example of someone not getting it. Of all people a sales guy should have no problem with this. It would be interesting to hear his answer if Nick asked him if he felt it demeaning to ask for the business from a potential client after he made a sales presentation.
    PS: a big reason why sales people don’t sell well is they don’t know how to close. ditto job hunters

  4. Am I the only one who finds this incredibly frustrating? You mean that job interview I prepared materials for and studied for (probably 20 hrs of work combined) and oh geez, because I didn’t say “I want the job” after 2 phone interviews and 5 hrs of in person interviewing I got the nix? you’re kidding, right?!

    Nick, I respect your forum, and I think you put out some great ideas, but if the hiring decision comes down to who ‘asks for the job’ and who doesn’t, well then… wow. I’d like to think hiring decisions are a little more complicated than that. And, please, let’s not ignore the all important ‘cultural fit.’ I think that makes more hiring decisions than actual qualifications.

  5. I almost lost my dream job by not making it clear that I wanted the job. When I got off the phone after the offer was made my wife, Thank God, reminded me to let them know.

  6. @malar The point is why leave it to chance? Do you want to leave the interview thinking “I sure hope they know I want this job’?

    The hiring process is not a hiring process, it’s an elimination process. We don’t need to be giving employers easy reasons to eliminate us.

  7. I agree that malar needs to learn to ask for the job. Yes, “fit” and all the interviewing and hoops are important, but why choke on the easiest part? I was a saleswoman for a company with 15,000+ employees. I won a top sales award for the whole country (USA.) My secret? I learned how to close. I asked for the business. It is NOT obvious that you want the job simply because you are interviewing. I’ve been on a few interviews and quickly determined that I didn’t want to work there. ASK FOR THE JOB EXPLICITLY! “Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. This job seems like a really good fit. I am definitely interested in working for this company under you as a manager.” (Use your own words and communication style.) But if you just can’t bring yourself to say that, and I am competing against you, thank you for making my life easier!

  8. At the recent soccer World Cup in South Africa, a few coaches were asked how they determined who would take penalty kicks to decide tied games in the elimination round.

    One had an interesting response:

    “The player who tells me he wants to take it. Not the ones who will not make eye contact and wait for you to come to them.”

    The Italian player who missed the penalty kick at the 1994 World Cup final at the Rose Bowl, Roberto Baggio, had an equally interesting comment:

    “Only those without the courage to take penalties miss them.”

    As Don Harkness noted, “A big reason why sales people don’t sell well is they don’t know how to close. Ditto job hunters.”

    We are all in sales. If you want the job or the gig, have the confidence and courage to ask for it.

  9. I find that your other advice, Nick, merges well with this current piece of advice.

    In my last interview ,for my current job, I wasn’t completely sure if I wanted to leave my old job or not. What I was clear on is how I would do the job, and I made that clear in the interview.

    IMHO, nothing says “I want this job” like saying “this is how I would do this job for you to improve your company.” I’d wager that a lot of people failing to say “I want this job” are also failing to say “this is how I’d do the job.” Of course you tell them to say that too…

  10. In the current job market, I have no hope of getting a job unless I express a passion for doing that work.
    At 63, I know I have to make it evident that I’m the best snowball in Hell.

  11. malar wrote:

    “Am I the only one who finds this incredibly frustrating? You mean that job interview I prepared materials for and studied for (probably 20 hrs of work combined) and oh geez, because I didn’t say “I want the job” after 2 phone interviews and 5 hrs of in person interviewing I got the nix? you’re kidding, right?!”

    Tim comments:
    You are not the only one who finds this advice frustrating. But I’m afraid it’s a frustration that anybody applying for a job had better get over and quickly.

    The reality is that the hiring manager interviewing you or your relative, friend, client whatever, may be faced with a choice between two apparently equally qualified people who each spent about 20 hours preparing materials and studying for job interviews. If only one applicant asks for the job, 10 to one that’s the applicant that gets hired.

  12. @malar,
    This isn’t the only thing you have to do and it is incorrect to simplify this process in the way you are simplifying.

    This is just one more thing on a checklist of things to do, to assure your boss and yourself that this job is a good one for you.

  13. I completely agree with Nick. If you want the job, speak up and tell them! The hiring manager is not a mind reader, and the last thing they want is to offer someone the position that does not want it. As a manager, if you don’t want to be here, I don’t want you here.

    I have left job interviews NOT saying that I want the job because I realized after talking with them that I didn’t want it.

  14. @Jeff Cornelius: “I’m the best snowball in Hell.” That’s the best answer I’ve ever heard to the question (that wasn’t asked here, but which is implied), “Why should I hire you?”


  15. @malar: (And I don’t know whether you’re male or female, but you’ll get my point.) If you are the most wonderful person in the world, treat me kindly, with respect and all the other good stuff that goes with issuing a marriage proposal… if you don’t say to me, explicitly and to my face, “I love you,” that’s a deal breaker. I won’t marry you. We’re done.

    Why would any manager hire you if you don’t say the equivalent of, “I love you?”

    Life is short. Don’t hang out with people who don’t love you.

  16. Asking for the job is not a substitute for being qualified. It is a necessary, but insufficient part of getting the job. There are many aspects to who gets the work: education, work experience, “fit”, character, references, and interest. The easiest way to show interest is to— ask for the job!

  17. Sometimes it pays to state the obvious.

    Ask your spouse if they would rather hear “I love you” on a regular basis. After all, you still come home every day – doesn’t that already say it?

    Also just like a marriage, words alone are not enough – the words have to be backed up by action. But hearing those actual words are still important!

  18. Asking for the job is much the same as asking for the order. A great salesperson knows when all is said and done, you ask for the order. It would seem to be the same for the job. What could it hurt to simply say, ” I really want this job.”

  19. Nick-appreciate your emphasis on an important part of “closing the deal”. I have recruited and been recruited; most candidates don’t finish off the process very well. I have always thought it was just a common courtesy to let the potential employer know my position after the interviews were over. There have been two occasions where I actually terminated the interview process to keep from wasting everyone’s time because things were said that set off the “don’t touch this” antennae.

    Thanks for the practical information you provide the job hunting and recruiting community.

  20. Nic, another good article–thanks! Sometimes something is so obvious but people still don’t do it. Very nice analogy to marriage too–and you’re right–I’d never consider marrying a man who never said that he loved OR who didn’t talk about marriage (left it to me, assumed that I just know how he feels), AND the words have to be backed up with action. But the words are still important.

    I’m in a job search, having lost my job recently due to budget cuts, and while I’m older and have had my share of jobs and been on quite a few job interviews, your tips and reminders are timely and important. The whole job search process is very different now–so your articles on HR have been helpful, and reading them helped me to change my strategy. I haven’t had any luck (re job opportunities) yet, but in the past I made the mistake of assuming that HR would get in touch with me. They don’t, and not only that, they don’t even forward applications/résumés to the dept. that has the opening! I’ve been hired in the past because I knew someone in the dept. where there was a vacancy, and only after I was offered the job and accepted it did they say they would tell HR they were hiring me. I’m not a fan of HR either.

    My latest experience with HR idiocy is the online job application process. The last two jobs I applied for required me to go to their website and fill out the application or download my résumé–they wouldn’t look at anything that didn’t come through that site. At least 2 of my previous employers are no longer in business, and a temp agency I worked for while in between jobs is also no longer in business. These applications REQUIRED me to provide the phone numbers for all of the jobs I worked going back x number of years and wouldn’t let me proceed without putting in the phone numbers. There was no space for me to indicate that there are no phone numbers because the businesses went under. I tried entering 10 1’s, 10 zeros, to no avail. I called HR to ask what I should do as I couldn’t complete the process without phone numbers. The woman suggested putting down my number, and if I got called, then I could explain. I did that, and apparently that raised all kinds of red flags–so they never called me because they thought I lied about my employment history. You would think, especially in this day and age of economic uncertainty, and in the previous era of big businesses buying out smaller, local businesses, that it would have occurred to someone in HR that applicants may have worked for businesses that are no longer in existance and have created something in their online process to address this, but no. When I called HR, I got the run-around–and it never occurred to them that anyone would have worked for a business, let alone 2 or 3 businesses, that have gone under!

  21. More great points MaryBeth! I worked for a huge multinational corp (25,000 employees) that didn’t “go under,” but they did up and move…so, most people quit or were laid off and stayed behind. Then they eventually merged with another large multinational corp, now there is no one currently at the company that is familiar with my work. I do have a couple cell phone numbers of coworkers that I still keep in touch with and I leave their number, but I am sure that is raising red flags too. I hate those online applications for this reason, but I can not just leave this job off as it is crucial to understanding my unique experience in my industry.

  22. I take hiring seriously. Very seriously. When hiring someone we have a minimum of two phone interviews before inviting the person out for a full-day interview. Starting at ~6:30 for breakfast. An hour long discussion during the commute, and an hour long discussion on the way home before dropping the person off at ~5:30. Sometimes dinner after that. Yes, that is a lot of time being invested by the organization in looking at a candidate. (But necessary IMHO to ensure we have the “right” candidate.)

    Just saying that you want the job isn’t going to cut it. You need to be interested in the work we are doing. If you seem bored or uninterested in the work we are doing, you aren’t going to get an offer because you aren’t the right candidate.

    Being in government (in spite of what some of the think tanks are saying), the salary I can offer is a little low. The semi-remote location leaves something to be desired. But I can offer an opportunity to work in an interesting field with people who are excited about the work they are doing. If you aren’t excited during the interview, you aren’t going to fit.

  23. I am not a big HR/recruiter fan myself. I do have concern with regards to being the one to say you want the job. Some organizations may blindside you in negotiations when a candidate is too eager or willing. Being eager and passionate is different from being desperate. It takes a special type of individual to see this and have the integrity to not take advantage of the candidate’s willingness.

    At the end of the day, it is a number’s game.

    Any comments would be greatly appreciated!

  24. @CB: Point taken, but at the end of the day, there are no numbers to negotiate if the employer doesn’t make an offer. And a lot of employers won’t make offers if it’s not clear to them that you want the job. Being “too willing” need not affect negotiations, especially if you make it clear that while your desire for the job is a fact, the compensation is a negotiation.