Desperation can destroy your job search.

Employers want to hire people who appear confident and in high-demand. The best way to avoid looking desperate is obviously by not being desperate. But, what do you do if you really feel like your options are very limited? Here are 7 secrets to avoid looking like a desperate job-seeker (no matter what your situation):

1. Don’t whine or complain. Winners don’t whine, and whiners don’t win. Complaining about your career will not help your cause. In fact, a “Debbie-Downer” attitude will actually make your situation worse because you will turn-off people who could help you.

2. Don’t be too flexible. How do you think it looks if you ask someone if he has heard of “any job openings?” I get emails like this all the time (note: saying you’ll take “any job in marketing” is not much better). People will not be inspired to help you (or hire you) if you have no purpose or focus for your job search. Get clear on where you are trying to go before you ask for help or advice. (If you have no idea what you want to do, start by researching jobs/careers on your own and by conducting informational interviews as well.)

3. Don’t refer to yourself as “unemployed”. If you are out of work, for any reason, find a relevant, valuable way(s) to fill up your free time. You could take a professional development course, you could donate your time/expertise to a professional association, you could guest blog for a web site in your field, etc. Other than saying that you are a taxidermist, there’s nothing worse than having to refer to yourself as “unemployed” when someone asks what you do. By staying active during your unemployment, you’ll feel better about yourself and have something to talk about while you are networking and interviewing.

4. Don’t send “job search spam.” You’re a job search spammer if you send mass emails to your network or post social media updates to ask for help during your job search. Every communication during your job search needs to come directly from you and be one-to-one and personalized, even when you are communicating with friends and people you know.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask tough questions. When I interviewed for a front-office job with the NBA’s Washington Wizards, I went out of my way to ask tough questions, even though I was just a student with no real work experience at the time. For example, the team had just removed Michael Jordan from his management position (this was back in 2003), so I asked how the franchise was moving forward despite their obvious PR challenges. By asking tough questions in a non-confrontational manner, you send a clear message to the employer that you are evaluating them as well. This makes you look less desperate and much more attractive.

6. Don’t follow-up too aggressively. While I’d always prefer that an employer think I was too bold than too passive, follow-up can definitely be taken too far. The best way around this is to establish a follow-up timeline at the end of any communication (i.e. right before a job interview ends). Then, you’ll know how/when to follow-up.

7. Don’t accept an offer immediately. Think about this from the hiring person’s perspective. If you made an offer to a candidate and they accepted it immediately (without any delay or questions or counter-offer), wouldn’t you question that person’s worth? Wouldn’t you wonder if you could have gotten the person for less? Wouldn’t you wonder if this person was desperate? Wouldn’t you wonder if you had made a bad decision? Negotiating your salary (when done correctly) can actually make an employer want you even more and earn you greater respect for when you start your job.


Pete Leibman is the Founder and Keynote Speaker for Dream Job Academy and the Author of I Got My Dream Job and So Can You. His work has been featured on Fox, CBS, and CNN.