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Why passion shouldn’t be a job requirement

Cherone Duggan
Cherone Duggan

Cherone, former Content Team Leader at Workable, specializes in topics such as work culture, candidate and employee experience.

Are you passionate about your job? Do you absolutely love what you do? Does every single one of your work responsibilities make you feel happy, engaged, challenged and fulfilled? Do your routine administrative tasks light up your life and brighten your day? Are you head-over-heels for an obscure industry niche? And do you worship your customers and clients like the deities they are? If so, we’d love to meet you. Come join our dynamic team of passionate problem-solvers and team-players. Apply here today.

Too many job descriptions are written this way. They position passion as a prerequisite for job success. They ask for ardent fervor, for intense interest and for impossible and improbable commitment.

They ask your candidates to lie to you.

Because none of this could possibly be true.

Almost nobody is passionate about what they do for money. Pretending otherwise hurts employers and job-seekers, because it perpetuates the myth that hire-worthy employees have to love their jobs. They don’t. They just need to be good at them. And maybe even like them.

Passion doesn’t qualify job applicants

As amateur guitar players and hobbyist photographers know, loving something and being good at it are not the same thing. Passion is irrelevant if your work is sub-par. People often love things they’re bad at. And they tolerate work they’re good at. For an employee to continue doing work they’re good at, they shouldn’t hate it. (That leads to misery, burn-out and bore-out.) But they don’t need to love it with passionate intensity. They can like it with healthy levels of detachment.

Some kinds of passion just don’t exist

The idea that there are people who are passionate about every industry niche, every B2B vertical and every solution to a ‘customer pain point’ is absurd. It’s about as absurd as the idea of never-ending honeymoon-level romantic infatuation. It’s a myth. Believing this myth keeps hopeless romantics single. And believing in the importance of employee passion keeps companies from hiring the right people.

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Money perverts passion anyway

The act of getting paid to do something you love damages your love for it. This is a psychological phenomenon called the ‘overjustification effect’ – where an external incentive (like money) decreases your intrinsic desire (or passion) to do something. Given this effect, the popularity of “follow your passion” career advice may be destroying employees’ passions. Given this general truth, a candidate who earnestly declares that they are “passionate about tax law” after 20 years in the industry, may just be telling you what you want to hear.

To avoid passion pretense, change what you want to hear

The easiest way to avoid clichéd answers to interview questions is to stop asking candidates to reveal their passions. Most candidates are schooled in answering stereotypical interview questions in the ‘right’ way, instead of the honest way.

Purging the standard passion requirement from your job descriptions will:

  • Save you a lot of time
  • Spare your candidates from lying to you
  • And inject more honesty into your hiring process

Admitting that good employees aren’t necessarily passionate about their jobs doesn’t have to make you a cynic. It just makes you more realistic. Nobody goes into a job hoping, or expecting, it to fulfill all of their burning passions in life. Lots of us don’t even know what we’re passionate about and are tired of having to pretend that we do. Accepting that, and asking candidates for different, job-related qualities like patience, graft, candor and the ability to work with other people will help you find employees who are good at their jobs, even if they’re not passionately in love with them, or with you.

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