One behaviour that turns employers off, and how to avoid it

We know for a fact here at CareerBeacon that enthusiasm is one of the key deciding factors for employers when it comes to hiring. You have to show enthusiasm for the job, or you might as well forget it.

But there’s a fine line between enthusiasm and desperation, and while the former will help you get the job, the latter will squash your chances and send hiring managers running. Do you know which side you fall on?

No matter how desperate you are, you can’t let it show. Nobody wants to hire someone who is desperate. Desperation suggests that nobody else wanted to hire you, and people don’t usually want what no one else wants, because there may be something wrong with it. Is this fair? Of course not.

I have been desperate for a job in the past. We probably all have. And needing a job to pay your bills isn’t something that should disqualify you. But it often does. Sorry. We don’t make the rules.

There are certain behaviours that you might think show enthusiasm, but that actually tip the scales into showing desperation. Here’s what they are and how to avoid them.

Practically begging for the job. Using phrases like “If you hire me, I’ll do anything,” in your cover letter and in the interview makes you look like you’re begging. You might think it sounds eager, enthusiastic, or accommodating but you would be wrong. Saying that you “need the job” is also a huge no-no.

More phrases that make you sound desperate are variations upon “I’ll take any job. It doesn’t matter.” Hiring managers want you to want their job, not just any job.

Show you want the job by demonstrating that you’ve researched the company and position, and asking pointed questions about the job and about next steps after the interview.

Applying for jobs for which you’re nowhere near qualified. You might think, “Hey, it can’t hurt, right? Might as well go for it.” Then you stuff your resume with appropriate keywords, manage to get past the electronic gatekeepers, and score an interview. But that interview then tanks, because you can’t actually answer any of the job-related queries and clearly have no idea what you’re talking about. Now you’ve not only lost out on this job, you’ve also probably ruined your chances of landing any other job with the same company because they’re not going to look kindly upon you wasting everyone’s time.

It’s OK to apply for jobs for which you’re a little underqualified since you can always teach yourself some skills. But be realistic as to what you can reasonably pull off.

Wild arrogance. When people are feeling unsure of themselves they often compensate by acting like total jerks. In a job interview, this might amount to making ridiculous, grandiose claims about your abilities, interrupting the interviewer, putting other people down, and coming across as insolent, cocky, and/or pedantic. Nobody is going to hire an arrogant know-it-all.

Be confident but humble. Listen. Make eye contact. Wait your turn to talk.

Not stating your salary expectations, or lowballing yourself. At some point, someone is probably going to ask you what your salary expectations are, and you have to say something reasonable. Saying money doesn’t matter, or pricing yourself way below market rate is a big red flag.

State a salary range starting with the least you should reasonably accept and they most you can reasonably ask for without sounding like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers.

Not asking questions. Not asking questions in the interview makes it look like you aren’t giving any thought to the process, and don’t care about the position and company. This can suggest a lack of enthusiasm. But it can also suggest desperation because a discerning individual asks questions. Either way, it’s always a negative.

Ask questions about the workplace culture, the company, the job and what would be expected of you. (Don’t ask about salary or vacation time.)

Following up like a crazy stalker. Sending a follow-up thank-you email after an interview is expected. Following up with another email a couple of weeks later, if you haven’t heard anything, is also a good idea. Sending a barrage of emails asking what’s going on, and calling the hiring manager and wanting to know if you got the job are bad ideas.

Send the thank-you note. Follow up a couple of weeks later, then leave it alone. Hiring managers can be incredibly busy, and the reality is that many of them won’t bother to let you know you didn’t get the job. It sucks, but it’s life. Move on.

The scary truth is that people can smell desperation. Or, rather, science suggests that we can smell fear and anxiety (both of which can be related to desperation) and that, while we aren’t aware of what we’re smelling or how we’re reacting to it, the scent of fear might even elicit a fear reaction in the smeller. The last thing you want to do is create an unpleasant atmosphere in the interview room by reeking of desperation.

Try to relax. Breathe. It might be a good idea to learn some relaxation techniques and use them beforehand and during.

Remember that you can only do your best.

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