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posted: 6/9/2013 6:51 AM

Career Coach: Don't be a desperate job seeker

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By Jeffrey Kudisch
Special to The Washington Post

Acting desperate has never been an attractive quality in dating relationships, and it's certainly not attractive to potential employers, either. For jobseekers -- especially new graduates who haven't yet secured a position -- emotions can run high and turn usually calm, collected candidates into needy, overeager individuals. It is that behavior that will keep them from landing a job.

I've had a handful of students over the years that fall into this group. Their resumes look fantastic. They pass the first-round interview, but they get to the second round and they just aren't getting the job. As you can imagine, they are very frustrated. When I talk to them and to the recruiters, there is a theme to why it's just not happening. Instead of being themselves and letting their talent and experience doing the selling, these candidates come across as too desperate for that job. They are doing things that turn off the recruiters, and they don't even realize it.

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Here are some of the biggest turnoffs:

Hyper sales mode

Candidates can become so focused on selling themselves that they are just not listening to an interviewer's questions. They don't offer relevant information, or they are going off on tangents during the interview. They may even speak too loudly, too fast or just say too much. Some may begin using jargon -- acronyms or tech speak, for example -- but the terms may not even be relevant. They are just trying to impress recruiters.

Deviating from the script

Candidates may have spent a long time preparing for interviews and have their personal achievements and questions prepared to discuss. But in the interview situation, they stray from those points. Perhaps they exaggerate their achievements and try to go straight to "closing the deal." An interview should end with a candidate reinforcing their value proposition and interest in the job. Avoid being too direct or asking "Are you going to hire me?"

Looking desperate

Candidates' nonverbal cues can indicate their level of anxiety when they look too rigid and uptight, they don't smile, and they have a look of concern. Some come across like an aggressive salesperson, going so far as to invade an interviewer's personal space.

Overzealous follow-up

Rather than checking in with a quick thank-you note inquiring about the status of the job search, some candidates take it too far. They are peppering recruiters with emails or phone calls to find out where they stand, rather than allowing adequate time for the hiring process to play out.

Hovering

This is particularly an issue for overeager jobseekers at career fairs and networking events. They crowd a particular recruiter and don't know when to step away. It's like that party guest who just doesn't take the hint that it's time to go home.

Searching for jobs can be a very emotional journey. But if candidates rely on their job search skills and resources that can help, they can avoid allowing the frustration to take them to the level of desperation. Stay calm, collected and confident -- it's about changing your state of mind. And know that it's OK to get a "no" from a recruiter; keep your head up so you can move on to the "yes."

• Jeffrey Kudisch is assistant dean of corporate relations, managing director of the Office of Career Services at University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, and a faculty expert in leadership, negotiations and human capital management. He has a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology and he co-founded Personnel Assessment Systems, a human resource consulting firm specializing in executive assessment and leadership development.

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