Job Seekers: How Not to Appear Desperate

Posted by Matthew Gottula | Filed in Articles, Get the Job

Even if you are desperate for a job, you don’t have to act like you are. This article explains why desperation can spell doom to your job search and what you can do about it.

Most job seekers need jobs to survive. Bills to pay, mouths to feed – there is so much on the line. And as the search lengthens from weeks to months (or even years), a deep feeling of anxiety and worry may start sinking in. You may find yourself thinking that you don’t care what the job is or what it pays – anything to get a steady paycheck coming in. You start showing signs of desperation.

Job searching is like dating. You, the job seeker, are looking to begin a relationship with an employer. And just like meeting a potential soulmate for the first time, you never want to appear desperate. You have to respect yourself before others will respect you. You don’t want to come across as annoying, having low standards, or that you would go out with just anyone. You have terms too, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to agree to everything they say. (The bullets below are common phrases of a desperate job seeker.)

  • “I’ll do anything!” Although you may think that telling an employer that you are willing to do any job at any salary will make you a more appealing candidate, it actually has the opposite effect. That is selling yourself short. It makes you appear as though you don’t value your own experience and skills, and employers will wonder why you are willing to settle. Instead, know exactly what the employer needs, and confidently prove that you are that person through your accomplishments and skills.

Desperation isn’t an attractive trait. In relationships, being desperate and clingy is a turnoff. For job seekers, desperation will turn off potential employers and stop your search in its tracks.

It may feel appropriate to share your job related stress, but employers have enough stress of their own. They have an empty position and work that is not getting done. They want to hire candidates that they think can help them, not the ones who appear to be in need of the most help.

  • “I need to pay the bills.” Everyone has financial obligations. That is a given, so bringing it up in the job search is unnecessary. Stay focused on proving that you are the best candidate for the position, not on what the position can do for you.

Your time in job interviews, and space in cover letters and resumes, is valuable. Don’t waste any of that time or space expressing your desperation when it could be better used to explain your skills and qualifications for the position and your ability to contribute to the company.

  • “I’ll accept any salary.” It’s fine to say that your salary is negotiable, but stating that you don’t care about pay in an interview suggests you have bad judgment and/or poor self-esteem. If you say this, employers may wonder what else you’d be willing to cave in on if they give you the job. Instead, prepare a sensible salary range, and wait for the employer to open the topic.

When you act desperate to an employer, you subtly make the implication that they should hire you over other candidates because you need the job more. This attitude is unprofessional and unfair. You should not be putting this kind of pressure on someone with a hiring decision to make, because nobody likes to be guilted into things.

It may sound harsh, but most employers don’t care about your desperate situation. What they do care about is whether you are qualified for the job opening.

  • “Why haven’t I received a callback?” Being pushy is a classic sign of a desperate job seeker. Hiring managers have horror stories of aggressive job applicants who call constantly after the interview; don’t be that person! This behavior makes you appear annoying and distracting – not determined and eager as you may have intended – and will certainly eliminate you from consideration. Wait an appropriate amount of time to follow up, and be polite, pleasant, and relaxed.

Don’t overcompensate for your insecurities. If you have a poor academic record or some gaps in your job history, don’t try and justify it or explain yourself unless you are directly asked about those areas. Doing so makes you come across as slightly desperate and on edge. Instead, be comfortable and confident in yourself and your abilities.

In this difficult job market, it is too easy for job seekers to “crack” – to lose touch with common sense and let their stress and desperation get in the way. How can you keep calm and professional in front of employers?

  • Keep your options open. You do have choices. You can go back to school, start your own business, pursue a different career, relocate, or simply look elsewhere. Even if an opportunity you hoped for didn’t work out, there are plenty more out there to discover. Just knowing that not everything rides on the outcome of one job interview takes a ton of pressure off your shoulders.
  • Recall past successes. It will boost your confidence and help you determine what you want in your next job.
  • Relax. Take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world, even if it seems that way. If you’re doing all the right things, everything will work out.
  • Be patient. Hamilton Holt said, “Nothing worthwhile comes easily. Work, continuous work and hard work, is the only way to accomplish results that last.” Job searching takes time; be patient and let the process take its course.

Be positive! Be the type of person other people want to work with: friendly, engaged, calm, and confident.

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