Job Search Desperation: How To Not Look Desperate When Looking For Work

When looking for a new role, it’s important to seem enthusiastic – without exhibiting signs of job search desperation. Seeming desperate can be a sure-fire way of putting a hiring manager off. And at the very least, it stops them from seeing your true value.

Below are four of the most common ways that job seekers can come across as desperate. For each we have provided some suggestions of ways you can avoid slipping into these desperation-related pitfalls .

Why It’s Important Not To Seem Desperate

Human’s are strange creatures – psychologically speaking, anyway. We always want what we can’t have. Something that’s handed to us on a plate never seems quite as desirable as the thing that isn’t readily available to us at that moment. I’m sure you will have almost certainly experienced this phenomenon at some point in your life.

Hiring managers, believe it or not, are human too. So the main reason to avoid looking desperate for a job is simple: it makes you less desirable as an employee.

Job Search Desperation: A Case Study

To put this into perspective, take a look at this example. Let me set the scene: a company is hiring  and they have two candidates that they want to bring in for interview.

Candidate A is confident, interested in the role but would like to learn more about whether the business will be a good fit for them. During their interview they ask questions about the company and the role, and are honest about what they can and can’t do. They have a clear idea of what they want from the role and this is evident in the way that they present themselves. After the interview, Candidate A gives the company enough time to come to a decision but will follow up in a timely fashion if they feel it necessary.

Candidate B, however, handles the interview differently. They enter it with the mindset that it’s only them, the candidate, who needs to impress. They don’t mind what the role requires of them, they will do anything, and they make this apparent during the interview. At the end of it, they don’t have any questions. There are no concerns about whether the role meets their expectations – they just want a job. After the interview, Candidate B waits two days then calls the company four times over the course of the following week.

Can you see  the difference? Which candidate seems more appealing to you? Which do you think is suffering from a bout of job search desperation?

What Can Happen If You Seem Desperate

Not getting the job is the most obvious side effect of job search desperation. Hiring managers are simply put off. They’re put off because there seems to be little demand for you. By seeming so very available, you’re putting across the idea that nobody else is interested in your services. And if nobody else is interested in your services, how good can they be?

But the flip side to this is potentially worse. You get the job. But, because you have come across as desperate, they undervalue your worth. They offer you £35,000 for a job that should be paying £40,000. And they do this because they know they can.

But you don’t need to be Candidate B. You can be Candidate A and build a fulfilling career for yourself. Below, I will reveal how you can avoid looking desperate when looking for a job.

1. Stop Having Such An Obvious Lack Of Direction

First things first, hiring managers want to see that you have a direction. Now, I understand that it isn’t always easy. And nobody is expecting you to know what you want to do for the rest of your life.

But what they do want to see is that you at least have some passion and commitment to the type of role that you’re applying for. But how can you get this across?

Well, one of the ways you can do this is through the way you position yourself on why you’re applying for a particular role. Let’s say you’re being interviewed to be a Junior Network Engineer and you’ve been asked “Why are you applying for this role?”.

Here are three ways you can respond, from worst to best.


“I need a job and this seemed like something that might be interesting to me.”

Why is this bad? It exhibits very little in the way of enthusiasm and doesn’t demonstrate any forward thinking in terms of career. The phrase “something that might be interesting to me” comes off as the type of thing that somebody who just stumbled across the opportunity on Indeed might say. There is no conviction or commitment to the role – you’re just applying for any old job, aren’t you?


“This role stood out to me because it will allow me to use my technical knowledge. I am eager to work within the IT sector and I feel this will be a good place to start.”

Why is this better? It shows that you at least have some understanding of what is required from the role and shows that you have something in the way of career aspirations. With that being said, it still isn’t very specific, and doesn’t show much commitment to the role itself.


“I feel that this role will be an excellent entry point into a career as a network engineer. I’m technically-minded and a problem-solver, which I feel is well suited to the challenges involved in setting up and maintaining computer networks.”

Why is this the best? It shows that you have done your homework and understand what you’re applying for. It also highlights WHY you’re applying for it and demonstrates the benefits that you will bring to the role.

2. Start Putting Together Tailored Job Applications

Having a clear direction will help you when it comes to putting together a good job application. Instead of having a generic CV, which you send out with a generic cover letter (or no cover letter at all), take a targeted approach instead.

By having a direction, and knowing exactly the type of role you want to apply for, allows you to tailor your applications to appeal to the hiring managers who will be reading them. Let’s say, for instance, you want to land a job as a business analyst. You can tweak your CV so that it showcases skills related to this role.

Even if you don’t have much previous experience in business analysis, that doesn’t mean your previous roles are wasted space on the page. You can cherry-pick specific elements of these roles to highlight skills that are highly relevant. For example, if you worked in IT sales previously, your communication skills will come in very handy as a business analyst, so clearly show that.

Your cover letter is also a brilliant opportunity to communicate directly to the hiring manager. Tell them why you are interested in the role, what skills you can bring to it and why you think you’re well suited. The key with getting your cover letter right is to write a new (or mostly new), bespoke cover letter for each role you apply for.

Why is it important to do this? Because by taking the generic approach, you will exude the appearance of somebody who is applying for anything and everything.  And that isn’t good.

3. Stop Using Desperate Language

“I will do anything!”

“I’m just really looking for a job at the moment!”

These types of phrases absolutely smack of job search desperation. And using language like this will damage your chances of being recruited. So what type of language should you use instead?

Well, it’s good to remember not to seem too available or desperate – even if you actually are. I understand that sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where you are out of work and need to get back into work ASAP.

But it’s always good to remember that interviews are a two-way process. And by treating them as such, you will improve your chances of inspiring confidence in the interviewer.

So instead of telling them that you will do literally anything, be honest about what you can and can’t do. Have a clear image in mind about what you’d expect from the business and ask probing questions to find out if they meet your requirements.

It’s also good to demonstrate a sense of self-worth. For example, if there is a salary range and you feel your services are worth a certain amount, ask for that amount and justify why you feel you are worth that salary. Not only does it show that you value your services, it may also help to put the services you offer into context for your potential employer.

4. Don’t Over-Do It When Following Up

Being forthcoming and seeming interested is good. It shows that you’re enthusiastic about the opportunity. However, there is a line. And once you cross that line, the chances of you putting off your potential employer increase greatly, very quickly.

So how can you avoid getting the follow-up wrong? Well, there are two times when it can occur. The first is after you’ve applied for the job. The second is after you’ve attended an interview.

After Application

Once you’ve applied for a role, there may be a temptation to follow up a day or two after. It could be to check if they’ve received your CV or to enquire as to when you can expect to hear back. But this may not be the best course of action.

I’d recommend giving the company a week or so to respond. If you haven’t heard back by this point, it may be worth following up with an email or call to ensure that they’ve received your application. Always ask if there is any more information they’d like from you at this point, as it can be a good way to open a dialogue.

However, if you’re applying through a recruitment agency, this is slightly different. In fact, it may be worthwhile calling the agency BEFORE you send in your application. Failing that, give them a call immediately after applying to discuss the role further.

After Interview

Again, as with applications, if you have been put forward for an interview by a recruitment agency, there is no need to wait before following up. Agencies will be eager to hear your feedback on how it went, so give your recruiter a call after your interview. At this point, you can agree a timetable for receiving feedback from the employer. If you don’t hear back by the agreed time, follow up again with another phone call.

However, if you’re interviewing directly with the company, after your interview, don’t be too hasty to follow up. Hiring decisions take time and it’s good to give the company enough time to make due considerations.

It’s worthwhile asking at the interview when you can expect to hear back. Often, they will let you know if they have any more interviews lined up in the coming days. If they say that they have another interview lined up for the following week, there’s very little point in following up before that date.

Give the hiring company at least a week, and a couple of days after their final interviews, before contacting them to follow up. Try chasing them up with a call and if you don’t manage to get in touch, leave an email and wait for them to get back to you.


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