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I've recently started interviewing programmers again, and I keep seeing something that drives me crazy.
First, some background: my company makes "reactive media displays", which means we have a projected image that reacts to your movement. It's pretty much universally regarded as being great fun to play with.
And that's where the problem comes in. When we invite interview candidates in, we usually take them in the back for a demo early on. That's both because it is a lot easier to understand when you see it, and because we want people to want to work with us. Just about anyone who sees the demo and isn't interviewing gets excited and starts to play. Not so for the interview candidates -- everyone seems to think that if they act excited during an interview, or even display interest in what the company does, then they're losing points.
And it has nothing to do with this particular company. I've seen the same thing in other places. You get the interview candidate relaxed and start asking them what they like about the company, why they're into computers, what they enjoy working on -- and you get crap answers that can all be paraphrased as "I like to work hard and do what I'm told."
When I'm interviewing people, I am 50% looking at what they're going to be able to accomplish, and 75% looking at whether I want to work with them. (Yes, those sum to more than 100%. The latter is influenced by the former.) And I want to work with people who are excited! Motivated! Interested in what they're doing!
So why do people feel compelled to display about as much emotion as they do when filing their fingernails? Is this supposed to be "professionalism"? People do realize that they can be professional and enthusiastic about their jobs, yes?
Sure, some of this can be ascribed to nervousness. But not all of it -- when I interview, I keep pestering people until they tell me about something they've enjoyed, and in that process I often collide with candidates' direct unwillingness to admit that they've ever enjoyed anything job-related in their lives. They'll tell me how much they enjoy skiing, they'll talk about how they've always wanted to study economics or physics, and they'll even describe in agonizing detail what a slimeball they used to work for (don't do that, by the way) -- but they won't breathe a word about how they're into computers just because they're so darn fun.
So here's my plea: no matter how bad the job market is, no matter how nervous you are, don't conceal your enthusiasm. You won't get the job at my company, and you'll be doing more harm than good just about anywhere.
In reply to (OT) Number 1 mistake to not avoid during an interview by sfink