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Advice / Job Search / Networking

How to Avoid Coming on Too Strong in Your Job Search

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During the job search, it’s all too easy to feel emotionally involved. After all, this is your livelihood on the line, and everybody’s telling you that a typo on your cover letter could be the difference between you going on to the interview stage or getting passed over entirely.

However, this same desire to get a job so badly could be the thing standing in the way of you actually getting hired.

The problem comes when you want something so bad that you go from being passionate and ambitious to seeming, to be honest, kind of needy.

In an article for Science magazine, career expert David Jensen explains:

Very few can achieve something difficult without desire. Desire, though, is like gasoline; it can burn too hot. It’s also like a lubricant; it can grease the gears, but if you have too much, things get slippery and hard to hold on to. It also doesn’t show very well, or not always.

For example, maybe you try so hard when networking with your professional contacts that you come on too strong and turn them off to helping you. Or maybe you’ve practiced your over-enthusiastic interview answers so much that you end up kind of scaring interviewers (they have a sixth sense for this sort of needy desire, Jensen says).

The question is, how do you show off your enthusiasm—without going overboard? Here are a couple of suggestions.

When Networking

When it comes to any sort of networking (in-person events, email, LinkedIn), the name of the game is being straightforward but casual. Let people know that you’re on the job hunt, but don’t shove it down their throats.

For example, if you’re at a networking event, you don’t want to spend every second of a 10-minute conversation talking about yourself and what you’re looking for in a job. Instead, use your job search as a jumping off point for someone else to talk about what they do. Saying, “Oh, you work in finance? I’ve actually been looking at different positions in the sector for a while. What is it that you do?” is a lot less aggressive but also opens up the door to more possibilities of where the conversation can go.

Another important tip for networking during the job search? Always offer your contacts some sort of out. For instance, if you’re asking a friend to put a good word in for you at her company, end with something like, “If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, I completely understand. There’s absolutely no pressure.” Regardless of how badly you want that job, it’s not worth making a contact feel awkward (and potentially having the opposite effect).

In Your Job Application Materials

When you’re the one doing all of the work to get a job, it’s easy for your materials to come off as being all about you. What’s wrong with this approach? You’re missing a critical part of the equation: The company that’s doing the hiring.

Remember that from hiring managers’ perspectives, your job application is actually all about them, since they’re the ones in need of someone and therefore opening up the opportunity for you to apply.

So, don’t let your resume, cover letter, or application turn into a giant “me”-fest. Much like the principles of networking, it’s all about making the other person the center of attention. Take extra care in your cover letter to explain what you’d do for the company (not just the fact that the job would be great for you), and make sure your resume actually illustrates your qualifications for that particular job.

During the Interview

Over-preparation can actually be a bad thing when it comes to job interviews! For example, have you ever had someone look you straight in the eye for extended periods of time? Trust me on this one: It’s ridiculously uncomfortable!

While it’s important to go over interview questions and think about how you want to come across when you’re meeting with a hiring manager, it’s also important to think about how you may be coming across to the other person. For instance, a firm handshake it good; a bone-crushing grip is not. Practicing your answers to common interview questions can totally help you; memorizing answers word-for-word will come across as rehearsed and awkward.

Be prepared for anything in an interview, including having to go with the flow at some point or another.

The best way to keep your desire for an opportunity in check? Jensen suggests reminding yourself that there are bigger and more important things out there: “…focus less on whether or not you win in the end. You still have to be sharp; that’s why you prepare well. But once you’ve prepared, you need to calm down. And you can. You know why? Because it really doesn’t matter that much.”

In other words, if this opportunity doesn’t pan out, know that there will be another great one around the corner.