Are You Giving Off Signs You’re A Desperate Job-Seeker?

We are starting to talk about important topics we haven’t talked about before, at least not in professional life. We are learning to talk about fear and trust.

We are starting to notice our body’s reactions to fear. One of them is a racing heart. When we’re fearful, our breathing gets faster and our brain changes, too. Fear shuts down our creativity and openness to new ideas. We go straight to fight or flight mode when we are afraid — and who could blame us?

Our brain chemistry is to blame, but once we realize that fact we can take steps to stay calm rather than panicking on the job search trail.

The fears we feel during a job search make us much less effective job-seekers. We can’t think straight with our fearful, critical brain constantly telling us “Get the job offer, no matter what!”

It only takes one horrendous job situation to teach us that there are plenty of jobs worse than another few months of unemployment. Still, fear is a powerful emotion and when we’re feeling anxious about paying the bills, our fear can overwhelm us.

When that happens, our judgment falls away. Our personalities can change dramatically. The changes are not positive ones.

We might put up with job-search abuse that we shouldn’t tolerate. That’s not only bad for our negotiating leverage and our health, but it’s bad for our job-search prospects as well.

We fall into fear and try to please our way into a job. We put up with insulting requests from recruiters and other people involved in the hiring process. I see this phenomenon in action every day.

When we are in fear we don’t realize that we are sending out signals. The signals say “Do whatever you want to do to me — I’ll put up with it!”

In a calmer moment or lying in bed at night you may rationalize your behavior, thinking “Well, I may be begging for this job but at least they know I really want it.”

That is undoubtedly true, but it won’t help you get the job and is more likely to hurt your chances. Desperation is not appealing. It doesn’t inspire confidence.

Who would hire my colleagues and me to consult with their company if we told them “We’ll do whatever you want us to do for whatever price you think is fair”? They hire us because they know we’re going to tell them exactly what we think.

Me on the page is identical to me in the boardroom. Your job-seeker persona and your on-the-job persona can be the same, also.  You don’t need to play a part to get hired.

You’ll be amazed when you bring your honest feelings to a job interview and tell your hiring manager something he or she wasn’t expecting and maybe isn’t eager to hear. Not everyone will like what you have to tell them.

So what? If they can’t handle that little slice of your truth-telling, how could they handle the whole enchilada iif you ended up working together?

Listen in as Abigail brings her truth to a second interview with Marty:

MARTY, the MANAGER: So Abigail, let’s talk about customer hold time reduction. If I hire you as Tech Support Manager, that’s going to be a big focus.

ABIGAIL: I’m happy to hear that!

MARTY: Want to share some ideas on that topic?

ABIGAIL: Sure — if I took this job I’d dig into the hold-time issue by understanding the technical side of it, the nature and length of the calls your customer service reps are handling now and their effectiveness, and customer satisfaction levels, to begin.

MARTY: Would you try to shorten the length of each tech support call?

ABIGAIL: It would be irresponsible of me to answer that without more information. Maybe the calls need to get longer on average rather than shorter. Maybe there are ways to help more customers through the website or recorded audio guides. I’ve had a lot of success with those before. I just couldn’t tell you without looking more closely.

MARTY: Well, as you can imagine I don’t want to increase our average six minutes per call. The more calls we can handle in a day with fewer reps, the better.

ABIGAIL: I couldn’t promise you that I won’t be in your office three months from now telling you to lengthen the calls, hire more people or who knows what. You’re hiring me, if you do hire me, to give you my best recommendation. I don’t know yet what that will be.

Your customer service team has more influence on the sales process than I see them using right now. I was happy to  meet them last week and that message came through loud and clear.

I wouldn’t say the hold-time issue is a simple break/fix topic. It has implications for sales and marketing — for instance, in the audio recording that customers hear while they’re on hold.

I’ve listened to yours a few times. I understand why the recording pushes the most recently-released product, but that product is only appropriate for a tiny segment of your customers. That’s a missed opportunity.

MARTY: I have to say, I don’t agree with everything you point out but I give you credit for giving it to me straight — and also for looking closely at what I’m dealing with here.

ABIGAIL: I want you to know who I am and I want to know who you are, if we’re going to work together.

Here are the five ways desperate job-seekers declare themselves:

  1. They convey the message “I’m desperate” in their over-eagerness to return calls and emails instantly and to perform any task or assignment a hiring manager might dream up.
  2. They send the message that they’ll take any job they can get when their focus throughout the interview process is on pleasing the people they meet (versus exploring the idea of collaborating, with value on both sides).
  3. They make it clear they’re ready to grovel in their infinite flexibility and understanding as the job spec bends and flexes, interviews are re-scheduled and cancelled and the process grinds to a halt or fades into oblivion without so much as a thank-you email message.
  4. They announce their desperation through over-selling (like a thank-you email message that includes a list labeled “Ten Reasons You Should Hire Kami Smith for This Job”).
  5. Most of all, they make plain their anxiety through the absence of any boundaries, reservations or considerations about the job itself or the hiring process, no matter how much abuse is heaped on them.


Fear is powerful, but you are even more powerful and you can shift the energy in your job search.

You can remember that you are not a sheep but a talented, vibrant person with experiences and gifts to share with the lucky organization that brings you onto its team.

Find your center. Get a journal and write in it. Remember that trying experiences make us stronger in the long run and that God, Mother Nature and the laws of physics don’t send us more than we can handle.

You are perfect now and you always have been. Other people — including recruiters and hiring managers — will value you more when you value yourself.

Saying “No!” to the wrong things is the first step. It feels scary the first time you do it, but soon it becomes routine. A rude headhunter gets a quick “No thanks.”

Another officious email message about another rescheduled interview gets a fast “I’ve decided it’s not a good match” response. Value yourself and see how the world responds. Your trust in yourself will be rewarded.

The only way to grow muscles is to use them. A job search is a powerful muscle-building opportunity if you see it that way.

You’ll be the newly hired employee who says “I hesitated before turning down that first job offer — but thank goodness I did!” in the near future. Trust your gut now and you’ll thank yourself later.

Special Bonus Section! Questions and Answers

I love this advice Liz, but I worry about how to put it into practice. Let’s say I’m invited back for a fifth interview after I’ve already told the team everything they could possibly want to know about me. The fifth interview is a stupid idea, but what can I do?

The fifth-interview request is a fork in the road.

When you politely inquire about the reason for the fifth interview and name the elephant in the room — the committee’s hesitation to hire you after so much discussion — you’ll shift the energy in a good way.

If you go to the fifth interview pretending there’s nothing wrong, you will be training these folks to walk all over you — and they still won’t hire you.

Instead of saying “Sure, I’ll come back for a fifth interview!” you can say “Thanks very much for that invitation. I have one concern. May I share that with you? Great.

“My concern is that it seems there may not be a high level of buy-in to me as a candidate for this job. I would certainly respect your team’s opinion if you feel that I’m not the right person, but as you can imagine I’d be reluctant to accept the position unless there’s a high level of support for me among your managers.”

“Why, whatever do you mean?” the HR Manager will say, and you’ll say “This will be my fifth interview. That’s a lot of conversation without a job offer.

“If you would like me to come and see you to talk about the details of a job offer and then to leave your office with a new job — and you with a new employee – or part friends and agree that there’s no match, then I will come. Otherwise, I can’t justify a fifth interview.

“That would be a waste of my time and yours. I think it’s important for you to have a Marketing Manager you feel total confidence in, and I need to feel the same confidence in my fit with your team.

“Do you want to talk to your teammates and let me know what you decide?”

Your honesty will shake the tree and get somebody to tell you what’s really going on with the hiring process — or tell you to take a hike, which would be far better than continuing to prop up the fiction that endless interviewing rounds are reasonable and businesslike.

Why pursue a job disguised as a person who isn’t you? You are too mighty to play that game. It’s beneath you and it doesn’t work, anyway. Remember who you are and what you bring!

Read about Derek’s experiences with desperation job-seeking here! 

Our company is Human Workplace.

If you’re job-hunting, get a mojo boost and step-by-step guidance in a Four-Week or 12-Week Virtual Course! New Human Workplace virtual courses start this weekend!

Download your Virtual Course Guide here.

Reach us with your questions here!

Originally Posted on Linked In by: 

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Posted on January 22, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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