Are you “desperate” for a job?

Recently, I ran into a young man I know who mentioned he was looking for a new job. When I asked what he was looking for, he replied, “I’ll do anything!” While I’m sure he thought this was a very flexible attitude, he came off sounding extremely desperate (and maybe he was!). I told him I’d keep him in mind, but the first problem was, I had no idea what his skills, interests or capabilities were in order to recommend him for a future opening. Should I call him if I hear of a teaching position? A firefighter position? A clerical position?

It is a big mistake to carry a “desperate” attitude, both for the job seeker and the impression to the potential employer. For the job seeker, conveying a desperate position immediately puts you in a poor position for negotiating salary. The employer believes you are needy and therefore can probably offer you a lower salary than someone who is not desperate. Also, you are more likely to accept “any” job, with a weak analysis as to whether it is a good fit for you. Soon enough, you’ll be wondering why you took the job and you’ll be unhappily looking for something else.

For the employer (or recruiter), a desperate candidate may seem unfocused and unable to identify their strengths. So, they will be skeptical about your abilities. Also, employers like to hire candidates who are excited about doing the work of a particular job. So, if you do not identify why you are interested in THAT job, they will wonder whether you really want it and how long you plan to be there. They are investing in the time and expense to hire and train someone new and will not consider someone who they believe is going to leave once a more interesting opportunity comes up.  

 What to do? First, be prepared to describe what you are looking for by focusing on your strengths and interests. You can keep your answer broad to show flexibility, but there must be an emphasis on your skills and capabilities. For example, that young man could have said, “I have experience in office skills and customer service in corporate and retail environments.” Someone else might say, “I am strong in sales, business development, and marketing.” Second, seriously consider whether you really want to take “anything”, since you may find yourself looking all over again in a short time. Finally, if you ARE feeling desperate, practice answering questions in a way that conveys interest and enthusiasm. You will be more likely to get an offer….and a better one at that!