This is a classic interview failure. I’d guess that good candidates fail to get an offer 80% of the time because they don’t know how to say, “I love you.”

Why don’t my interviews produce any offers?

I recently had what I feel are very good interviews. Most of these interviews lasted a couple of hours with the main decision maker, yet I don’t get any job offers. A good friend (who works in engineering management like I do) says that I need to tell the interviewer I want the job, but I think that’s obvious. Why would I be in the interview if I didn’t want the job? It just seems a little awkward to say that explicitly, almost like I’m begging. Who’s right?

Failing to say explicitly that you want the job is a critical mistake. You must say it.

I cannot emphasize this enough: Say it, and say it before you are asked. (Most of the time an employer will not come out and ask whether you want the job.) It makes all the difference in the world.

I’ve had clients tell me they liked a candidate a lot, but they don’t make an offer because they don’t see a clear commitment from the candidate. An employer needs to hear you say, “I want this job.”

As you point out, it might seem obvious: why would you go on the interview if you weren’t interested in the job? But, it’s not obvious at all. In fact, people go on interviews all the time for jobs they aren’t sure they want. Internet job boards create pathetic conditions where people apply for hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs at a time just because the jobs are posted. They attend interviews because they are invited — not because they have a high motivation to work for a company that calls. Savvy managers know this.

Mind you, I’m not suggesting you should say you want the job when you don’t. You need to make a decision during the interview. My rule is this: if your gut tells you there’s a better than 50% chance you’d take the job if it were offered with a good compensation package, then you can legitimately say you want the job. (If you don’t really want it, then end the interview and forget about it.)

When I asked my wife to marry me, she said yes. (I got lucky.) Do you think she’d have said yes if I’d never uttered these magic words to her: “I love you”?

People naturally want to hear it. You’ve got to look the manager in the eye and say the equivalent of, “I love you.” I want to come work for you. I want to be on your team. If you don’t, then you’re not serious. Another candidate will be.

Of course, it helps if you have other things to say that impress the interviewer… but that wasn’t the question.

  1. Right on! I sold cars in another life and “Asking for the sale” was a must. Same thing with job interviews.

    Keep in mind, when made an offer, you can always request time to think it over. As a matter of course, I ask for 24 hours to consider an offer (and specify a “call by by…” time).

    Also “I want to work for you…” is not a promise to take the job regardless of the parameters. What is implied is “…if we can reach mutually agreeable terms.” If upon further consideration (or the terms are not agreeable) you do not want the job, you can refuse it without going back on your word.

  2. Good point, Nick, as always.

    I was on a search committee a few years ago, and we had two candidates we loved, at least after the telephone interview. One indicated his deep interest in the job.

    Then we interviewed both in person. One again stated how much he wanted to work with us. Some of his reasons were personal, while others were professional. He said the job was a perfect match for his skills–and what that could mean, not for him, but for us.

    He got the job four years ago and is still doing amazing work. The other one? Who knows? We didn’t feel the love.

  3. Wow, eye opening. I have been searching for a long time and am not a “sales” person so I have never really “Asked for the job”. I will do so from now on.

    Thanks Nick.

  4. Only one scene in “Kramer vs. Kramer” ever stuck with me. It was the one after he had told his son he would show him where he worked and then was fired. He then went through a number of job opportunities, and was down to the final one; it was either get that job or have to tell his son he was out of work. The way Dustin Hoffman said “I want this job” has stuck with me all those years.

    I’m not a salesman either, but I can conjure up the image of Dustin Hoffman demanding the job, and replay it when I have to.

  5. Wise advice, as always, Nick!

    And…….I would add, be ready to say why you want the job.

    List some good specific non-BSy reasons, and not just ones that are all about you.