Having a burning desire to find a job is a key requirement to find work in a tough job market. That desire (and sometimes financial need) to find work motivates you to keep going in the face of all the doom and gloom. It’s the fuel that provides the energy to deal with all the set backs and rejections that come your way.
However, showing that desire in the form of desperation can often put people off and stop you finding work. It’s a fine balance.
So how do you strike the right balance between being keen yet flexible, without sounding desperate?
Here are 10 tips which may help:
1. Stop over-compensating for your insecurities
If you’ve been made redundant, don’t chip in during an interview with “oh, our whole team were laid off, it wasn’t just me” unless you are asked specifically about why you in particular were laid off.
If you have a poor academic record or a couple of gaps on your resume, don’t try and justify it or explain yourself unless you are directly asked about those areas.
Be comfortable with yourself, confident in your abilities and what you offer - rather than bringing up negative points. The minute you try and justify yourself, you come across as being slightly desperate and people become less interested in you.
2. Be ‘politely persistent’
80% of your success in job searching will come down to your ability to follow up. But how do you follow up without appearing desperate?
The general rule is to be ‘politely persistent.’ Be persistent in tracking and following up every lead, every ad, every resume sent, every loose conversation you have about potential opportunities. But then be polite, pleasant and relaxed in the way you follow up. Mix with some good manners and humility and it goes a long way to creating opportunities without putting people off.
3. Mind your language
Stop using language like “I’ll do anything - beggars can’t be choosers”
Yes, you need to be humble, flexible and open minded about finding roles in the current market - but avoid using desperate language like this (even in your head) as it will often put people off.
Remember, in a market full of choice, hiring managers want to recruit people who are, yes, flexible and keen – but also people who are confident in their abilities, regardless of the market conditions.
4. Be succinct
If you can answer an interview question in 3 sentences, don’t use 10. If you can write a 3-sentence email, don’t use 3 paragraphs. In addition to people not having time, saying too much dilutes the impact of what you’ve said whilst giving the impression that you’re trying too hard to impress – be that in an interview, on an email, on a resume or your cover letter.
Remember, ‘less is more.’
5. Slow down
When you’re searching for work, it’s easy to speak much faster than normal – subconsciously that’s often because you’re worried that people will stop listening to you unless you get out something that will interest them before they lose interest in the conversation. You want to make sure they have all the information they need to make a decision about you.
But this can have the effect of making you sound desperate. So just relax and slow down.
6. Don’t answer questions too quickly or too early
Even if you know the answer before the end – don’t dive in with an answer to an interview question before the person has ended (that’s rude) or a split second after they’ve finished (it shows you to be overly keen).
Be composed, in control and self assured.
7. Shut Up
When you’re anxious or insecure about your job search, that nervous energy often translates into trying to fill any silence and once again gives an impression of you trying too hard to impress.
If you have nothing else to say at the end of a conversation, don’t worry, just close the conversation first. In addition to it being respectful of the other person’s time, it demonstrates that you have other conversations to have and interesting things to do which makes you sound less needy.
8. Watch your body language
Your body language can give off signs of desperation without you even realising it. Fidgeting and leaning forward can often give off the impression of anxiety, self doubt and desperation.
Whether you are interviewing, networking or simply speaking on the phone – leaning forward gives off a sense of being slightly needy.
Sit tall, stand tall and behave as if you’re someone of value to the other person. If you don’t act and behave as though you’re of value to them– then how are they going to buy into you?
9. Be slightly elusive
Do you jump when the phone rings? Do you return voicemails within 2 minutes? Do you say “oh I can meet anytime, any day – I’m completely flexible?”
Being too available can makes you seem desperate.
It seems completely counter-intuitive for a job searcher in a tough market, but sometimes being slightly elusive, slightly unavailable, sends a message that you’re in demand. That you have options. That you have a life away from your job search.
That makes you interesting and different from the rest of the crowd. It makes me want to speak with you.
**Please note** - I am NOT advocating that you delay returning calls and miss opportunities. Use your judgement based on the level of demand for your skills and where in the search process you are. Being slightly elusive at offer and salary negotiation stage is ok – and may actually help with the negotiations. Being elusive when recruiters are trying to call you about an opportunity is absolutely not ok.
Also I’m suggesting you be slightly elusive, not unreliable. There is a difference. The first one makes you interesting. The second just difficult.
10. Be yourself
Please don’t treat the above 9 points as gospel. They are nothing more than guidelines to observe. There are no hard and fast ‘rules.’
So observe some of the points above, but do what feels right in the moment, for the individual conversation taking place, with the particular situation in hand. And most of all - be yourself.
If in doubt, I would err on the side of being keen and flexible rather than trying to play things overly ‘cool.’ So chase up, be flexible and be keen. If someone does think you’re desperate - well so be it. You certainly don’t want to be left thinking “if only……” after missing an opportunity.
When you’re out of work, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying too hard to impress and appearing overly keen. It’s perfectly natural.
But it all comes down to self-value and really believing that you can find opportunities.
If you truly believe you bring value to potential employers, you can articulate that value through your resume and interviews and then market yourself consistently in the belief that there is a role out there for you - then you will automatically stop acting with desperation – and in time, start attracting opportunities.