If you have bills piling up and perhaps are also carrying the heavy weight of sky-high student debt, you can start to feel fairly desperate — especially if you’re out of work and having trouble finding a job. And with all that on your mind, it’s hard to think about an employer’s needs during YOUR job search. And yet, that’s exactly what you need to at least keep in mind.
I mention this because a job seeker recently asked why he has to worry about what an employer wants when he read my advice about not continuing to email an employer when they don’t respond after several attempts to contact them. Bottom line, this is about getting hired not being right.
Here’s the part of job search that really feels unfair
His take on this is that he needs a job, and he has time to worry about the employer’s needs after he’s hired. But first, you need to do everything you can (within legal bounds) to get yourself to that job offer. That’s why it’s so important that you understand that you are getting what YOU need if you do what helps you get seen by the employer as a great match for them.
As unfair as that may seem, if you find yourself thinking they need to bend to your idea of what they should be doing, I have to ask you to take a moment to look at that from a larger perspective. If the goal is to get a job, then your sub-goal is to figure out what will improve your chances with the employer — and also what might get in your way.
Ideally, an employer would look past anything you are projecting that may be a result of your urgent need to get a paycheck, but in the real world you need to make it easy for them by not adding extra layers to confuse or divert, whether it’s with too many follow-up emails or during actual interviews.
But employers can be so rude!
Here’s where we agree 100%. It does feel rude. When it comes to following up, many employers won’t respond to attempts to get interview status information whether by email, phone, or snail mail. And the fact that you feel desperate won’t change what they need to do to complete the hiring process.
But in most cases, they aren’t consciously being rude. From the employer side, time seems to pass much more quickly than it does from the job seeker side — kind of like dog years. They aren’t out of work or in a job they hate. And they still have their normal duties in addition to anything related to the job you’re interested in.
In many cases, they either don’t have anything new to report yet or aren’t allowed to communicate for legal reasons until further along in the process. So even if they see your emails — and are pleasantly reminded of your many assets — they can’t always write back.
Even if they do reply, there may not be much they can say. Please know it’s probably NOT about you, even though it can feel that way. It’s just the often lengthy, multi-step hiring process — which can unfortunately tie their hands, even if they want to do more. Recognizing that can help you see them as potential allies, and not rude enemies keeping you from your job.
Now to the interview desperation part
I want to talk more about the image / impression you project in interviews and beyond. I know how hard job search is, and what I’m about to say may seem irrelevant or even heartless. Employers should hire you for what you can do, not some image you project. And I agree in theory.
But the only way an interviewer can guess who you truly are and what you might be like to work with (often the most essential part of any hiring decision) is based on what you say and the feeling they get from you.
And if you walk in projecting desperation or worse yet depression, while focusing inside on “I need this job”, it colors the impression you leave behind. Your main focus during the actual interview needs to be on how well you match the employer’s needs, and not so much your own needs outside of what the job itself requires.
I once was part of a group interview team for several IT customer service jobs. Each person had decent qualifications on paper; that’s why we called them in. But a couple of them were so clearly desperate to finally find that job, they weren’t able to focus on showing us who they really are. It was like their personalities shut down completely. And, though we tried to see beyond what they were projecting in the moment, it hurt them.
Remember: The way you feel can show!
What if you really are desperate and need to land the job?
So am I saying that you’re never going to get a job just because you need one so much? No … of course you can get a job. Especially now that you understand that your desperation may be showing, and it doesn’t have to.
BTW … nerves are ok. (How to handle them.) You just need to do your best to leave desperation outside the door, and present the talented, personable employee you would be once hired. The one who knows what an enormous asset you’d be to their team — and will use your interview to show them.
Interviewers want you to be yourself. Often people who try too hard to answer what they think the employer wants to hear — or use some canned speeches they memorized — fail to impress. In fact, that’s one of the worst ways to really connect with an interviewer, which is what you want to do.
Some final thoughts
I’m sure some of you are thinking “It’s easy for her to say don’t be desperate. But I really need this job. How can I hide that?”
You don’t hide it. It doesn’t need to show if your focus is on the positive – what you do have that the employer needs. To help shape your responses, read their job description carefully. Also research the company. Then think of reasons and stories that you can use to show them how well you match.
Also, if you can do things that make you feel like you’re accomplishing something — like volunteering or doing some freelance work — it not only helps your mood, but it gives you something new and positive to talk about when you do interview or network.
And above all, practice. The more you practice talking about yourself and the better you know your resume and accomplishments, the more easily you can speak about them naturally — and the more easily you will connect. Replace desperation with a solid shared picture of you in that job and company.
Project real enthusiasm for yourself and the job.
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