Man interviewing a male candidate

The interview assumption that costs you the job

Elizabeth Bromstein|

I read a lot of articles about job interview mistakes, as you might guess, and, lately, one mistake I’d never even heard before is suddenly making lists of the “biggest job interview mistakes” people are supposedly making.

This mistake: failing to ask for the job.

I wondered if it’s always been a common tip and it’s one of those things I just managed to miss, or if it was a new buzz phrase. More important, I wondered what it meant. Because beyond the phrase itself, there isn’t much of an explanation out there, and it had me stumped.

What do they mean “ask for the job?” Isn’t submitting an application, writing a cover letter, and showing up for the interview also known as “asking for the job?”

Are you also supposed to say the actual words, “So, can I have the job?” during an interview? Because that seems like a weird thing to say.

A web search yielded little information and it looked like lazy journalists were just listing something they’d read without giving it any context, but it did lead me back to a 2009 CNN article that looks like the original source everyone is pulling from. So, I reached out to OI Global Partners, the company mentioned in the article. And, finally, I got an explanation.

I asked the above question to Oi Global Partners managing partner Tom Wharton, who states, unequivocally that, no, applying and showing up for the interview are not the same thing as “asking for the job.”

Wharton says, “It’s just amazing to me how many interviewees assume that just because you’re sitting in that chair, that we know you want the job. I really don’t know if you do unless you tell me.”

And it’s true, when you think about it, that it’s not unheard of for someone to show up because they’re keeping their options open or just checking things out, or for someone to realize during an interview that they actually don’t want the job. So, you have to ask for it. But, no, you don’t say “So, can I have the job?”

Wharton says, “There are 100 ways to say you’re interested. Such as, after answering a question about your skills, adding, ‘And I feel confident that my skillset that I just cited to you would be a good fit for this job, and I want you to know that I’m really excited about moving this process forward.’

“But most people don’t say it. They just don’t do it. In my former life as a senior HR person interviewing thousands of people, I can count on two hands how many people actually said ‘I really am very interested in this job and I want you to know what I’m ready to hit the ground running.’ But those are the people who stood out.”

He adds that he has conducted interviews with well-spoken candidates who seem ideal for the position, and still been left wondering if they actually want the job.

Another example of how to ask:

“When I ask you how much you know about the company, you can say, ‘I know you have 200 employees in two locations in Toronto and from what I I’ve read, I think I’d be a good fit for this team.’

“You have to say it several times, in several ways, throughout the interview.”

Susan P. Joyce, editor and publisher of and adds another suggestion.

“You might ask ‘So, do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job and fit into the organization?'”

Whatever the words you choose, the imperative is to let the interviewer know that you are genuinely interested.

Joyce adds that there are a few more things she wishes job seekers would do at the end of an interview, “if not earlier.” These are:

    – Collect contact information from each person who interviewed them – name, job title, email address (so sending the post-interview thank you notes is easier to do)
    – Ask who they should stay in touch with after the interview to learn the status of the opportunity with contact name, job title, and email address.
    – Ask if they could reconnect once every week or two, and the preferred way of contact during the post-interview period.

Employers are always more impressed with a candidate who is passionate about the role they are hiring for and who wants to work for them specifically over someone who is just looking for a job – any job. Demonstrate your enthusiasm, and let them know you’ll be a motivated member of their team.

But you don’t actually have to say, “Can I have the job?” That would just put the interviewer on the spot. Because even if they have made up their mind, most aren’t willing or able to announce a final decision in the interview room itself.

“I don’t want to have to sell you this job,” says Wharton. “And I can’t assume that just because you show up for the party that you’re a partier. There can be ten finalists who all have on paper the competencies and qualities that I’m looking for. But what it comes down to, face to face, is whether you can convince me that you are the right candidate and can relate your competencies and skillsets to my company.”

What it comes down to is the old adage about never assuming, because “assume” makes and “ass” out of “u” and “me.”

Category: Latest News & Advice
  • David Gay

    Yes, it is a weird thing to explicitly ask for the job. The fact you applied for a job opening, and set aside time to appear for an interview implies the applicant wants the job. The applicant is not here to offer a new deal on energy efficient gas furnaces or conduct a survey for Metrolinx.

    If the intent is not made clear, the interviewer should ask at the end of the interview, “Are you still interested in this position?” and then let the applicant make it clear.

    • Matt

      I’ve interviewed dozens of people who were just looking for a job, any job, and if there’s a poor fit they’ll just quit on you. I get cut and paste resumes which aren’t even spell-checked. I hear stories from multiple sources, all over the place, of people who stand around most of the day and fiddle bored on the company’s payroll. I interact with people who look worn out and like they’d rather be elsewhere and aren’t into their position. I see posts on my Facebook of people who don’t enjoy their job and would rather work elsewhere. At the end of the day, you only have one life and it doesn’t make sense why you’d spend it at a job that doesn’t inspire you and doesn’t leave you excited to get out of bed in the morning. Some of it could be greed but I think mostly it comes down to poor financial planning and putting yourself in a position where you depend on a job to survive and pay your debts for things you didn’t really need in the first place. In any case, if you leave it up to the employer to try and guess whether or not you’ll perform well, you’ll always lose over someone who shows them that they can and will and would be happy to.

      • David Gay

        Each person has their own reasons for applying for work. Some of the points you mentioned are true. They’re here to earn a paycheque and nothing more. Others are enthusiastic about the job and are there for more than the money. In either case, they are at the interview because they want the job. Granted, some reasons are less admirable or honorable than others, but the interest is there.

        On the flip side of that, I’ve known people who wanted the job because they liked it and are regarded as a good fit, but failed because they could not do it right once hired. I’ve also known people who hate working but have the skills to earn and hold that job for a long time. In the end, whether or not the person does well has nothing to do with the interest (or why they said yes to appearing for an interview) but whether they can do that job. it is the interviewer’s responsibility not to gauge interest, but competency.

        • Matt

          Save physical or mental constraints, most people are capable of becoming skilled in nearly every job they desire with the right time and effort applied. I would say that ambition is more important than skill in the long run, however you obviously need both to be a good fit.