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 Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com 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.”