4 Ways That I Can Tell If Someone I’m Interviewing Has Passion About the Job

You want candidates who are passionate about what they do for a living, don’t you?

Of course, you do. But passion for a profession is tough to get a grip on.  There’s a lot of fake passion out there. Enthusiasm is great, but it’s not passion. Passion is what keeps you grinding for days on a single issue when no one but you really cares.  Curiosity is also great, but I know a lot of intellectually curious people who don’t have the depth necessary to call it passion.

Cheerleaders are enthusiastic. Drifters are curious. Passionate people dig in for the long haul, even when it’s incredibly hard.

How can you test passion in an interview?  Find out whether the people you are interviewing have passion for what they do (or are simply paying the bills) through some of the following interview strategies:

1. Ask candidates how they stay up to date in their field. If you see a glut of reliance on professional training and formal activities that happen in company time, you’re probably not dealing with passion. Passionate people tend to loathe the training in their own field, because they don’t think it’s deep enough.

2. Ask a candidate to give you a big question in their field they’d like to solve and why. Ask them what they’ve done related to starting to figure out the answer. Probe hard on the answers they give. See any creativity? You might have passion. See lots of glittering generalities or an emphasis on the work of others? That’s fake passion.

3. Ask a candidate how they find others in their profession to connect with, and how often they connect with others in their field outside of their company.  What do they talk about? What type of information is exchanged? How have those connections helped them?  Are they finding people and introducing themselves outside of traditional associations?  That’s what passionate people do.

4. Ask Motivational Fit questions. When have you been most satisfied in your work at Company X? Least Satisfied? If the answers show a consistent theme of talking about BS factors rather than a clear line towards being able to do interesting work related to their field, it’s hard to project them as passionate in their field.

And no, Alice—passion for something that’s not work-related doesn’t count for you as an interviewer. It’s nice to know you run marathons, but it has no impact on things that emulate from passion for the profession—continuous improvement, innovation, etc. It does tell me you’re probably not going to cost a lot for healthcare, though. Thanks!

Start asking questions that give you line of sight for professional passion in your candidates. No fake passion or passion that doesn’t produce results.

Or just keep looking for people who want to make the donuts and go home.  The world needs ditch-diggers too.

FOT Note: This rant is brought to you by the good folks at Halogen Software who like us enough to be an annual sponsor at FOT for all content in our performance management track (and don’t expect that we run any of this by them ahead of time). 

FOT Background Check

Kris Dunn
 Kris Dunn is Chief Human Resources Officer at Kinetix and a blogger at The HR Capitalist and the Founder and Executive Editor of Fistful of Talent. That makes him a career VP of HR, a blogger, a dad and a hoops junkie, the order of which changes based on his mood. Tweet him @kris_dunn. Oh, and in case you hadn't heard the good word, he's also jumped into the RPO game as part owner of a rising shop out of ATL, Kinetix. Not your mama's recruiting process outsourcing, that's for sure... check 'em out.


  1. Karishma says:

    You hit home with quite a few points. At the end of the day its all about energy and passion and how one can effectively network and upskill themselves. Thanks for sharing

  2. Naeem Ahsan says:

    Can anyone tell me when was the last time this character trait was acknowledged or groomed for an employee, then why to ask and expect truth from an interviewee. Obviously you already the answer.

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