Is passion the most overused word in the recruitment process?
‘Do we actually mean we want someone who is enthusiastic, energetic and eager to please?’
On their application forms candidates claim they are “passionate about customer care”. In interviews they stress their passion for “equal opportunities”, “the homeless”, “older people” − in fact, whoever and whatever the job is about.
Employers are no better when they claim to be passionate and seek people who share their passion.
A coffee shop in Nottingham is passionate about coffee and is seeking others who share their passion. Since when did recruitment become like online dating? Since the job market led to 1,800 people to apply for eight posts serving drinks in a coffee shop.
Passion in many cases is just shorthand for “I really want this job”, which in the current climate is totally understandable but could sound a bit desperate.
In her enthusiasm to secure our son an apprenticeship, my wife once told an employer he was so keen to work for them that he would do it for nothing. He was not impressed.
Is it reasonable for any employer to require an employee to be passionate? It’s certainly not necessary in order to do a good job. Do we actually mean we want someone who is enthusiastic, energetic and eager to please?
‘We should be reasonable and not demand an emotional commitment from would-be employees because we can’
As a candidate how do you demonstrate your “passion”? Would a coffee shop chain be impressed if you said you ground your own beans and knew the difference between Arabic dry roast and Colombian medium roast? Should we reserve the use of “passion” to describe how much we care − and you can’t compare caring for sick and vulnerable people with caring about selling coffee.
Or is this to confuse compassion with being passionate? After all, senior managers would claim they care strongly about the service or organisation they work for, that their enthusiasm is shown by their energy and commitment in making the budget stretch and keeping the show on the road; a commitment that often involves working over and above what is expected.
I think we have devalued passion as a word for describing how we feel about work. As employers we should be reasonable and not demand an emotional commitment from would-be employees simply because we can. My advice to anyone applying for a post − be it chief executive or a barista − is avoid the word.