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One of these nights, I was in the kitchen together with my housemates, exchanging the highs and lows of our day while preparing dinner. I started talking about the experience of facilitating the recruitment process for the summer internship program at Angry Ventures when Ana asked me: “what do you think is the most critical thing to take care of in order to land a job?”. In other words, she wanted to know what the secret sauce was.
Let’s see; I don’t believe that the way to go at things is to go looking for secret sauces. Especially because, when put like this, one might overlook where the sauce is supposed to be set and end up serving secret sauce for dinner, expecting to provide full bellies and smiles.
With this in mind, there are details indeed that, in certain situations, can make or break the intended outcome. Therefore, once you have your CV, portfolio, smile, a company you want to work with, a basic knowledge about it, some fit between a position or a need they have and what you can do for them, and a time slot of their attention, is there something that will tilt the odds in your favor?
Perhaps. What it is will depend on the people and culture of the place to which one is applying, of course. Once you think about it, it is quite trivial. But is there one thing that can work everywhere?
Maybe. This sauce will not have the same flavor everywhere, but it needs to come from the same place within us. It is called enthusiasm.
Ok, now I have put a name on it. This is dangerous.
Dangerous because people looking for shortcuts and recipes think they already know what I’m talking about and have already closed this window. They’re already rehearsing their high-pitched voice, their overly stretched smile, and writing down the 100 questions they are going to ask on the upcoming interview in order to show how enthusiastic they are. About what? It doesn’t matter. Somebody said enthusiasm was “the thing”.
Back to the basics
Let’s take a step back.
What is the purpose of a job interview? Although this is not a universal law, from the standpoint of a company, we can say an interview comes to be whenever there is a need. It requires a set of skills that, hopefully, can be found on a person and, on the process of finding that person, the company ends up talking with one or more candidates
Now, deconstructing a bit more: a company is no thing. It is agreements and a bunch of documents, at best. What really exists is people: people working together under those agreements that get written in papers. So, to be more precise, when a group of people needs more people, they set out to find some, see who can help the most, and eventually end up talking – hence an interview.
And what about enthusiasm, what is it? Etymology says the following:
On the other hand, Lao Tzu says in the Tao Te Ching, chapter 38:
A man of the highest virtue does not keep to virtue and that is why he has virtue.
A man of the lowest virtue never strays from virtue and that is why he is without virtue.
The former never acts yet leaves nothing undone.
The latter acts but there are things left undone.
In other words, enthusiasm to be impactful has to be genuine. It has to be unaware. It has to be inevitable. Effortless.
Who doesn’t want a genuinely “inspired or possessed by a god” person in their team?
All we need is love
Remember that the whole thing started with a need. Thus, considering that the core things are covered (hard skills, experience, manners, etc.), who better to add to the group than someone who really loves to do what we need them to? Somebody that is so enthusiastic about the work (not about the job, or the company, or the salary, or whatever) that you can see their love for it in all details. This love cannot be faked. No love can.
Even when some basics are not covered but we see the enthusiasm, we say the person has potential.
That’s because this “divine inspiration” is like fuel; it makes us do that extra research, do that extra little thing that adds value and is not in the requirements. It’s a trigger for creativity. It brings about those eureka moments even when working time is over; it blurs that line.
Instead of giving all this extra, the person receives it, because there is no effort, just enjoyment. So the point is not to exploit all this, but to bathe in it because it is like magic, and it is contagious. And you want everyone in the group to keep infected with it as much as possible.
Bliss is bliss
So, if you want a recipe, follow your bliss. Or at least look for bliss in what you’re trying to follow. Don’t fake it, because the only one you’re fooling is yourself. Even if you manage to get the counterfeit enthusiasm through the customs and land that job, eventually it will show. Either in your work or in your soul. So if you want a recipe, follow your bliss.
As Joseph Campbell says:
Follow your bliss. If you do follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while waiting for you, and the life you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you.
Is enthusiasm a secret sauce then?
As said before, a secret sauce is something to put on top or to add to the mix. Enthusiasm is only perceived as a secret sauce if we look at it as yet another item on the list:
- Hard skills – check;
- Experience – check;
- Empathy – check;
- Communication – check.
And on top of it, I saw a lot of enthusiasm – one might say.
My job, as someone facilitating the recruitment at Angry Ventures, is to turn this around and create the conditions for people to show their enthusiasm (or lack of), taking it not as a sauce but as something in the process that cannot go unnoticed because it permeates everything the person does. My job is to get them to do just enough or to talk just enough about something that can let the light of enthusiasm shine through.
So, is it a secret sauce or not? Maybe. I don’t know what it is, but I like how it tastes.