While I am not a hiring manager, I have had the opportunity to sit in on countless interviews with multiple companies for Entry-Level positions. I have found this situation to be extremely beneficial to myself, as I am closer in my professional career to most of the candidates who are being interviewed than the VP of sales who is conducting the interview. Through my observations I have found many of these hiring managers look for the similar traits, along with a “secret sauce”.
Candidates love to list off experiences, education, as well as what they think these hiring managers would like to hear. Even though these show signs of dedication and preparation, It appears to me that none of these serve as a deciding factor during an interview. Through all of the interviews I have participated in, I have identified this intangible trait that is a deciding factor. People have different names, definitions and perceptions of what this is. Ross Nibur of InsightSquared identifies this intangible trait in a candidate as “the hardest to name-- it's that secret sauce of drive, or competitiveness that lets someone pick up a phone 90 times in a day and deal with the rejection”. He finds it so important because this is the attribute that cannot be taught.
Believe it or not, these managers can sense this during an interview, as can I. I was at first trying to figure out what makes the candidates that “have it” different from the ones who don’t. After months of evaluation, I realized it has nothing to do with education, internships, or interview preparation. All those are the lettuce, tomato and pickles than can be added or removed at any time. This secret sauce has more to do with the individual rather than what has impacted the individual to make them qualified for the position.
The “secret sauce”, in my opinion, is passion. Passion cannot be taught or faked, but when it is present, it's extremely obvious. People may be passionate for different reasons - learning/making themselves better, a specific product/market, or even monetary gains. This could be the reason passion is so hard to put a title on, as it is fueled differently by each individual. Passion is what makes you show up early and stay late, passion is the difference between the average and successful employee. Passion is what makes companies successful. Ultimately, passion is the difference between being a sure-hire and a question mark.
For this reason, before you apply for your next job, take some time and evaluate your future goals. Apply for a company that has management you want to learn from, a product you believe in, or puts you in a position that will empower you to reach your dream job. This will not only allow you to interview stronger, but will also allow you to perform better once you do get hired.