Careful with CAN versus WANT


Bad economy, high unemployment. People need jobs, companies need specific skills but with fewer job openings. This is a dangerous combination. Here’s why:


Someone who wants (or needs) a job has a choice with each interview question: say the truth, say what the interviewer wants to hear, or just outright lie. In desperate times some people will just lie. They’re either needing to pay rent, feed their family, maintain health insurance, it’s a survival requirement. In great times, people say the truth and the burden is on the employer to decide if they are ok with that. 


Being "too truthful" may cost you the offer but save you months of misery.

In delicate times, however, it’s more of a dance: the employer has a better selection of candidates when unemployment is high. Most interviewees will try to be honest, but not to a fault. Then the question of skills and goals comes up. Can you do the job? That’s a different question from “do you WANT to do this job?”


During delicate times, the interview questions generally focus around skills and ability. If both members of the interview aren’t careful, this could have a bad outcome.

If you focus on what you can do and ignore what you want to do, you risk getting a job that you will ultimately not enjoy. This is a lose-lose for you and the employer, because they would probably have liked to know this prior to you accepting the offer. 


It’s normal to not want to squander a job offer because you’re “too” truthful. “I can do that, but I really don’t enjoy it” doesn’t sound great as an interviewer answer. But it’s the truth. And if you think that isn’t going to affect your motivation and mood and performance, you’re probably kidding yourself. 


These are rarely black and white. There is likely a percentage of the job that’s in your “can do” skill set. The interview will want to focus on the intersection of what you can do and what you want to do. If you dwell too much in the “can do” circle, however, you’ll be ignoring the “want to do” which will ultimately be the determinant of your mood and performance. 


If the interview is going well, be honest with them: “I can do a number of these requirements that you outlined. My passion is really around ____, ______ and _____, however. If I were to perform well in the role, how much would I be able to pursue those specific skills?” - this is where the employer now has to decide if THEY will be ethical and honest.


If they focus on “get someone hired now”, they may give you lip service or orally promise a balance that they don’t intend to honor. If they do this and you leave because they misrepresented what you’d truly be doing, then that may also be a lose-lose for them.


Don’t assume they’ll do the right thing, they may be desperate for a warm body and may not even care about a revolving door of unsatisfied employees.

Don't interview to get a job. Do it until you get THE job. 

If you don’t pay enough attention to that “want to do”, you may find you keep missing the right fit job after job. The burden is on you to really distinguish these two circles of ability and desire and make sure you pick a job where what you CAN do is able to fund the development time and resources so you can hopefully emphasize the WANT-TO-DO items for the most fulfilling job possible. Even in the worst economies, strive for the work that you want to do, otherwise you’ll be paid but wasting hours of your life every week. That may be surviving, but it’s not a great way to live. 


The interview is delicate: don’t fall in love with the job description because you CAN do the work. Fall in love with the job that you WANT to do and see if the interviewer agrees. 

Mann Consulting, LLC

282 Second St. #400

San Francisco, CA 94105

  • LinkedIn Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • branding-logo-zendesk
  • Facebook Social Icon
0