Interview feedback was “low energy” – what does that mean?

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Q:  I interviewed for my dream job last week.  I just found out I didn’t get it. It was down to two candidates and I was the “runner- up” unfortunately.  The recruiter said I was as qualified if not more qualified than the other candidate.  It was explained to me that I was “low energy” and “didn’t seem as hungry or eager.”  What does that mean?  Have you ever heard such a reason for not getting a job offer?

A:  It is frustrating to advance through the selection process and not receive an offer.  However, this feedback is helpful.  I have heard hiring managers use this as a differentiator before.  It is somewhat common.  How does a candidate demonstrate energy and interest in a role?  Here are some steps:

  1. Respond quickly. Reply to emails and phone calls quickly, within hours hopefully.
  2. Send thank-you notes or emails promptly. Personalizing the note so it avoids having a generic “thank you for your time” quality.  Instead add something that is memorable in a positive way.  For example: “It is a small world that we both played soccer in college, in the same league!”  Make your candidacy memorable and connect with the hiring manager.
  3. Proof your correspondence (no typos or grammatical mistakes) and keep them professional but still friendly.
  4. Show up. What I mean is when you arrive for your interview, show up!  Arrive a few minutes early.  Greet everyone, including the receptionist, warmly.  Maintain good eye contact.  Ensure you look your best.  Dress one step up from how you think you should dress.  If they are in jeans, wear a pair of pressed khakis or a tailored dress.  Bring a few hard copies of your resume.  Actively listen.   Ensure that you are leaving everyone with the impression that you are capable and want the job.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  5. Close the deal. If you are one of the final candidates, tell them you want the job.  Explain how you can be successful and add value.  Think about submitting a 30-60-90 plan.  Email me at if you need a sample template.

Although it can be heartbreaking to miss out on your dream job, be grateful that you received honest feedback.  Most importantly, learn from it.  Thought it might be difficult, you should send them a note thanking them for sharing feedback with you.  I have had clients ask me how the #2 candidate has responded to not receiving an offer.  If the runner-up responds negatively, that is telling to the client.  It confirms that they made the right decision.  If the candidate is disappointed but professional, I have had clients re-evaluate that candidate and try to find another role for them.  How you carry yourself is critically important from beginning to end.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is a human resources expert and works for First Beacon Group in Hopkinton, an HR consulting firm. She contributes weekly to Jobs and the Boston Sunday Globe Money & Careers section.