When you’re desperately looking for work, that desperation screams to hiring managers during your interview. You’re eager in your answers. You stress that no problem is too big for you to handle, no request too crazy. You even try the occasional Jedi mind trick, just in case.

It can be a little off-putting. So do the follow-up phone calls, emails, and repeated requests for updates, and sending additional information.

Believe me, I know it’s tough. You have a family to take care of, bills to pay, and your self-esteem is going down the toilet every day the phone doesn’t ring.

Let me tell you a secret: the employers don’t care.

They don’t care that you’re desperate or that you have to take care of your family. They’re looking for the best fit for the company, and don’t take anyone’s circumstances into consideration. You can’t blame them — they need to find the best person to do the best job for the company, thus ensuring its long-term success, and they can’t make a bad hiring decision based on personal feelings.

(Of course, that does not include the heartless jerks who will automatically and purposely exclude people who have been unemployed long-term because they think there’s something wrong with them.)

What that means for you is that you’re not going to get them to change their minds by appearing eager, by continually following up, or by being so persistent that you stand out from the other candidates based on sheer volume of phone calls and emails.

You don’t want to stand out that way.

This blog post, along with all the other blog posts and articles on the subject, are telling you the same thing: Be patient. Be calm. Just trust that it will happen in its time.

And you’re saying, “You don’t understand. You don’t know how bad it is.”

Except I do. The six months I was unemployed were the worst six months of my life. And it was only through a stroke of good fortune that I found the job that ultimately led me down the path to owning my own agency.

But I made the very same mistakes I’m urging you not to make. And I made them again and again, no matter how many times people told me, “Be patient. Be calm. Just trust that it will happen in its time.”

Here are the two things you need to do during your job search to avoid appearing desperate:

  • Stop calling and emailing employers. They haven’t forgotten about you, and they won’t decide to hire you just because you sent an email or five. They’re going to pick the best person they think they’ve found, and an extra email or phone call won’t make them think you’re competent. They will hire you based on other factors though; focus on those. This blog is filled with posts about those factors.
  • Become a freelancer or start your own business. I’ve said this many, many times. There are too many cold, heartless employers out there who see long-term unemployment as a sign that you’re not employable, and not that we’re still in an economic recovery. But there are also a lot of employers out there who will see your initiative and work, and think that you’re probably better than the other candidates because you’re still working, even when you don’t work for a company. And, as a freelancer, you can meet with the decision makers who are also the hiring managers, and you get to bypass the HR circuit completely. Do good work for them, and they just may decide to hire you full-time.

Persistence is a noble virtue, until you bug the bejeezus out of people. It’s a fine line between dogged determination and being a pain in the ass. Don’t cross that line. Send a thank you note after the interview (hand written, of course), and then let it go. If you didn’t persuade them in the interview, you’re not going to. It doesn’t matter how much you want it to happen, if they don’t, that’s it. You can’t force the issue.

After the interview, get back to your freelance work, and make your next phone call to your next prospective client. Who knows? They may end up being your next job anyway.


Erik Deckers is the co-owner of Professional Blog Service, and the co-author of Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself and No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. He is also a travel writer and theater reviewer in his spare time.