How Passion Powers Careers, Plus 3 Tips for Recruiting Passionate People

Employees who are engaged at work and passionate about their careers are more productive, more innovative and inspire those around them to do their best.

Employees who are engaged at work and passionate about their careers are more productive, more innovative and inspire those around them to do their best. This has led some of the smartest companies to focus recruitment efforts on finding passionate candidates.

But passion can manifest in surprising ways. Recruiters who learn to look beyond technical skills and work experience can become adept at identifying the subtler qualities that predict passionate performance. So how can you effectively recognize and recruit for this invaluable trait?

Get to know what passion looks like

In “Unlocking the Passion of the Explorer,” Deloitte pinpointed three attributes that characterize passionate employees:

  • “Commitment to Domain,” or the desire to have a lasting impact on an industry or function

  • The “Questing” disposition, or the drive to continually push boundaries, probe for opportunities and learn new skills

  • The “Connecting” disposition, which leads passionate employees to seek out meaningful interactions with other experts to continue to develop in their own domains

These traits are common to active candidates, whose commitment to expertise and desire to learn and connect with more experts may be what drives them to take charge of their careers and actively seek new job opportunities. When someone is excited enough to reach out to you about a role, it indicates that something about the work your company is doing speaks to the passions that power their career ambitions, which could be why 70% of talent leaders say active candidates have a stronger motivational drive to succeed on the job.

As Indeed SVP of Marketing Paul D’Arcy said recently, “When I sit down to interview, I want to understand who the person is, what they are passionate about, and how the role they are interviewing for fits with the journey they are on. I am always impressed by candidates that can tell a clear story about who they are and what they are looking to accomplish in their career.”

Passionate candidates can articulate what excites and energizes them on the job and the work that produces a state of flow for them. They’re often thinking, reading and talking about their passions even when they’re not at work, kindling new ideas to bring to their roles, which is why they can be a fount of innovation for their organizations.

“Do what you love” versus “love what you do”

Let’s face it: if everyone resolved to only do what they love, a lot of important work simply wouldn’t get done. The good news is many people find passion and fulfillment in work they might never have envisioned themselves doing. This may be why recent dialogue around recruiting for passion has shifted to emphasize the second half of that shopworn phrase, “do what you love, love what you do.”

“Most people’s passions have little connection to work or education, meaning passionate skiers, dancers, and readers run into problems,” writes Sebastian Klein. The solution, he says, is to develop passion through mastery, experience and the acquisition of rare and valuable skills—in short, by committing to work that stimulates you and taking pride in becoming great at it.

A University of Michigan study seems to confirm this idea: They found that while some people are able to find work that fits their passions, others are able to cultivate passion for their work and be equally impactful to their organizations.

3 tips for recruiting passionate candidates

1. Market your mission. Does your product or service help people around the world to be happier, healthier or more successful? How are your employees helping solve some of the most pressing challenges of our time? Make these missions an integral part of your employer brand. Passionate, active job seekers are researching your company to decide whether you’re the right fit for them, so showcase your core values on your job site, social profiles and Company Page.

2. Find out what makes your passionate employees tick. Ask top performers what they love most about their roles and teams. If a position involves heavy collaboration, you want someone who is energized by constant interaction and collective problem-solving. If success requires wading through data for hours each day, you want someone whose flow state looks like that.

3. Create job content that attracts the right passions. After you’ve interviewed your most passionate performers, identify important keywords to incorporate into your job content when you post a job. Think beyond skills and experience to write job descriptions that reflect the nuanced personality traits candidates need to thrive in a role.

The opportunity to develop passion in new hires opens up a broader pool of passionate and potentially passionate talent to recruiters. By highlighting the most inspiring aspects of your employer brand and understanding the traits that predict long-term success in different roles, you can help build a more impassioned workforce.

To learn more about how passion plays an important role in talent attraction, download our ebook, The Science of Talent Attraction: What Makes Candidates Click.

Download the new report: "The Science of Talent Attraction: What Matters to the Modern Candidate"