Reeking of the Desperation Cologne
December 16, 2012 10:03 PM   Subscribe

I’ve been researching a lot, and have read time and time again, that during interviews, you’re also interviewing the employer to see if you’re a “good fit” together and that you should never seem desperate for a job, but rather, you should pretend money is no object and you’re only there because you think it would be fun, etc. The question is—how do you do this when you are in fact desperate for money and you need a job ASAP? (long-winded details behind cut)

Forgive me, and let me know if this needs clarification. It's something I've been mulling over in my brain the past couple weeks.

I’m a bit confused on the “employment game”—I’ve been researching a lot, and have read time and time again, that during interviews, you’re also interviewing the employer to see if you’re a “good fit” together and that you should never seem desperate for a job, but rather, you should pretend money is no object and you’re only there because you think it would be fun, etc. The question is—how do you do this when you are in fact desperate for money and you need a job ASAP?

I’ve been on 6 interviews in the past 6 weeks. I’d say that’s pretty good, right? I’ve practiced a lot, and even have good questions for them during the interview process and proper etiquette once the interview is over (a phone call, the thank you letter/e-mail). I have great experience, especially ones relating to customer service and technical support. One of these interviews turned into a temporary week-long position as technical customer support for an online college—which was great. I was told, however, that it could evolve into a more permanent position and that every employee went through this kind of ‘test’ to see how well they’d do. Only I spoke to other employees… and they never went through this kind of ‘test’ as I was told. While I’m not entirely certain, I do not expect this employer to offer me a permanent position, and they’ve never even hinted that it’s a remote possibility except for on the phone right before asking me if I accepted the temporary position.

So now, for me, it’s back to the job search game… only it’s really starting to wear on not only me, but my ability to handle rejection and also my self esteem. How do you get over something like this? How do you prove to an employer that you really want the job without seeming desperate? I know I'm employable. I know I have great experience and my references say nothing but good things about me. I'm very bright and adaptable and have a near perfect GPA in college. I know, it's the economy, the lack of jobs, etc. But I really feel I have a leg up on a lot of other candidates. I may lose my apartment thanks to lack of employment and really have nowhere to turn at this point. I need a job. Something more permanent. ASAP. What do I do?
posted by camylanded to Work & Money (19 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I suppose this is neither here nor there but I'm willing to do any type of job at this point.
posted by camylanded at 10:16 PM on December 16, 2012

you should pretend money is no object and you’re only there because you think it would be fun

I don't know what industry you are in or what seniority you have but if someone close to me told me this was a philosophy they were using in job hunting and in salary discussions I'd seriously take them aside for a discussion.

That is - mostly - totally wrong.

Anyway, it is true that you should not present yourself as desperate for a ***job*** for a variety of reasons but under no circumstances, unless you are applying to a lifestyle gig (NGO, etc.) you should not dismiss the money aspect. The point of that advice is usually to avoid coming across as greedy, clueless, or a loyalty-free mercenary which is not at all the same as positioning the salary as an insignificant item.

Best of luck.
posted by rr at 10:17 PM on December 16, 2012

If you live where I think you do, then I've worked the same call center job. I'd recommend against pursuing it.

The best luck I had in town was through temp agencies; I got some temp-to-whenever jobs that didn't pay well but did have nice people to work with. Sign up with all of them -- the great thing about most work through the agencies is that you don't really have to interview as such -- you just show up.

MeMail me if you'd like more info.
posted by asperity at 10:22 PM on December 16, 2012

Rather than pretending that money and getting the job doesn't matter much to you, it's going in knowing that you are a worthwhile person with lots to offer, and the employer should want you just as much you want them.

I don't know what this looks like in body language or speech, but I'd love to know too.
posted by ichomp at 10:26 PM on December 16, 2012

you should pretend money is no object and you’re only there because you think it would be fun, etc.

That's bad advice. You should assume the interviewers are smart and have a well-tuned BS detector. They know you want the job to make money, not just to have fun. It's not clear to me that you've been doing anything wrong in your interviews. Don't undermine your own self-confidence just because you're not following someone's weird advice.

Of course, it is true that you shouldn't ask about money in the job interview, and you shouldn't say that money is the reason you want to work for them. That's about avoiding specific faux-pas, not about your entire attitude throughout the interview.
posted by John Cohen at 10:30 PM on December 16, 2012

You should never seem desperate but you can demonstrate your enthusiasm. And you can be enthusiastic for a job solely because you want to pay your bills. Fine line.
posted by heyjude at 10:35 PM on December 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a reason so many people work in the service industry before getting a "big boy/girl" job. If you have customer service experience, you should be able to talk your way into a server position at a restaurant that needs seasonal help. Busiest time of the year, and always good for extra cash once you get a job in your field.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:38 PM on December 16, 2012

Absolutely do not pretend you want the job because you think it's fun. Jobs (most of them, anyway) are not about fun. That attitude may work for casual student-y jobs, but not for jobs that are meant to be more permanent or career-oriented.

- You want the job because you are the right person to provide value: you have skills, personality traits, or experience that will make your employer's team perform better, work together better, be more efficient (etc!)
- You want the job because it aligns with your goals, so they can be assured you'll care about the job: you've got experience in ABC, this job will allow you to develop B and gain new skills in D; you will stay and work hard to develop those skills and stay at the company.
- You care about money and deserve to be paid because you will be an asset to the company: You will be valuable to them, so paying you is worth it. You have a certain level of experience and skill, and deserve to be paid fairly for them. Nobody works for free or for fun.(But also nobody likes to hire someone who's only there for the cash.)
posted by Kololo at 10:50 PM on December 16, 2012 [22 favorites]

Go sign up for some temp work right away. People are going to be going on vacation soon and you should at least get enough cash for rent and another month of job search.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:07 PM on December 16, 2012

You shouldn't be as blase as you seem to think people are telling you to be - like "money is no object"!?! - but appearing desperate or "off" in any way is a big no-no.

I work in an industry in which there is not a lot of lead-time between the start of a job and the initial contact and interview. They usually need you tomorrow, or the next week. I've found that it's good to be able to start pretty much right away, but when someone belabors that point - "Oh, I could start right now! Nothing going on! Whenever you need me!" - it fucking weirds me out. Same thing when people suggest ludicrously low salaries. I wonder if they're a trust fund baby or insane.

Unemployment is brutal, and I think having an outlet and some money in the bank takes the edge off and makes it possible to go to a job interview and not seem desperate and twitchy. You have a weeklong, short-term job - will the cash from that take away some of your money stress? Do you make sure to get out of the house each day? Take care of yourself. I used to go to cheap or free yoga classes when I was un and under-employed, but there are a lot of ways to keep yourself sane.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 12:39 AM on December 17, 2012

I did 'interview' employers for fit when I was in a reasonably comfortable position. I was already in a well-paid contract role that looked like it would continue for quite a while and had a reasonable amount of savings, so the trade-off for moving out of the contract role was to take a position in an organisation or team that I thought would really suit me. So I did ask questions to assess the way they worked so I could judge whether it was worth leaving my contracting gig.

But in situations where I've just needed a job, I make sure I do my research and ask intelligent questions about the organisation or the role. This doesn't need to be extensive - I have interviewed people for roles at work and am surprised to have candidates who have not even read the information on our website.

It is still a balance between money and whether you'd like the job/organisation - umm, say, you might not mind working for an organisation that has a religious affiliation if that just informs their overall approach, but you might if it meant that they expected you pray at the start of meetings, but then again, you might not if they were going to pay you $10k more than another job (this is a real, although perhaps a bit unusual example of this balance that some colleagues of mine have faced).

But I think for entry level roles, you are often not in a position to be too picky. You can do that when you have more to offer.
posted by AnnaRat at 12:49 AM on December 17, 2012

I have a friend who has been looking for work for a year and it's killing her, so I know how tough this is for you. Don't give up hope, something will work out, just keep going!

I have had reasonable luck in job interviews by being somewhat honest (with myself). Do I really want this job? If yes they project that. The company wants someone who wants to work for them. I don't think of the interview as my chance to interview them, I see it as a way to find out about the company and sell myself to them as best as I can. Once I called a finance firm and told them I wanted to withdraw my application because the people who interviewed me were so awful and they tried to offer me the job. The interview is not the time to be projecting anything else.

Be honest...
Thank you so much for allowing me to come here and meet you.
No I'm sorry, I don't know much about the role but I am eager to hear about it...
I have researched your company and I think your values A, B, C, are things that I agree with and I would uphold as an employee here.

I always appear excited and grateful for the opportunity, you can always change your mind and opinion later.

Good luck, don't give up.
posted by Youremyworld at 1:11 AM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

you should pretend money is no object and you’re only there because you think it would be fun, etc.

I think you're mis-understanding the advice you're reading. You do not want to appear desperate because that is unattractive in a candidate and puts you in a position of weakness. You do want to appear enthusiastic about the role, even if you are not. What you're trying to avoid is looking enthusiastic about the paycheck - any paycheck at all.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:20 AM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]

I had a meeting today with someone (with serious management history) who said that people who bluster should never be considered. You can take that for what it is worth.
There's no exact science to job hunting.
In my experience desperate is enthusiastic, but it is easy to over-think these situations.
posted by Mezentian at 4:51 AM on December 17, 2012

Your attitude shouldn't be that you don't care about the job, but that you're looking for a mutually good fit for both you and the employer. To that end, you ask questions like:

1. Tell me what a typical day is like here.

2. What kind of person and skills are the best fit for your culture?

3. Based upon my skills and experience, how do you think I'd fit in here?

There should be a give and take between you and the interviewer. Work to build a rapport. They want to hire someone who will be an asset to the company, sure they need a butt in a seat to talk to all these customers, but it costs a lot of money to recruit and train someone and they want to be sure that you're worth the investment.

When they ask you to describe yourself, practice and give them a short blurb. "I'm a recent college graduate with X years of experience in Customer Service, I'm looking for a position that will allow me to get in at the entry level, and learn and grow with the company."

You may be asked questions like this:

1. Tell me about a time that you failed. You should have a story ready about something that happened in the distant past, something that has no bearing on you as an employee. For example: "When I first started college, I got very enthusiastic about Underwater Basketweaving, it sounded like a lot of fun, so I signed up for the course. It turned out not to be a course that taught me how to weave baskets underwater, but the history of Underwater Basketweaving. I was disappointed, but I decided to make the best of it. I studied, and attended every class. I eventually got a B in the course, and after learning the history, I decided that I NEVER want to weave a basket underwater. What I learned from the experience was not to jump to conclusions. If I had read the course catalog, I would have understood what I was getting into. Trust me, I now look before I leap."

2. How do you deal with difficult people? "Every job has someone who you just don't gel with. In my last position I worked with someone who was a real know-it-all. She constantly poked her head over her cube to tell me a better way to do whatever it was I was doing. In meetings she'd try to steer the conversation to something she felt was her area of expertise. Clearly she had an esteem issue and wanted to be regarded as the expert. At first I was totally annoyed by her and I'd do anything to avoid her. But I noticed that she really knew her subject, she just didn't know how to impart that wisdom. I started asking for her opinion when I had a question. I learned a lot and once I understood where she was coming from, it made it a lot easier to deal with her. So what I learned was that understanding a difficult person helps you to value their contribution."

You see where I'm going with this? You lay out the scenario and wrap it up with what you learned. You should have a couple of these ready, to tailor to whatever you may be asked.

You're getting lots of interviews, which is great. Just keep at it. You'll eventually land a job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:15 AM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: For the record, the monies from the temp position is covering December's rent which is already late, so unfortunately for me, there is no 'cushion' really to speak of. I'll definitely look into the temp agencies around here to try to find more work though.
posted by camylanded at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2012

I think you got some bad advice about "I'm here for fun".

A few years ago I was interviewing for a job with someone who knew me well. We both knew I had the job in the bag and the interviewer gave me some feedback on my own interviewing style. One thing he told me is that I didn't convey that I wanted the job; I was too cool, too blasé. I was thinking, "Dude I submitted my CV, went through 3 rounds of interviews and flew across the country to be here for the final round. Obviously I want the job." In retrospect, I think his advice was quite accurate. The candidate has to convey that they want the job. When I'm hiring I want to hire people who want to be there. I want people who genuinely think this job is their best option. I don't expect people to work for fun - everybody needs to eat. I do hope to find people who want this job over other employment options.

Now when I'm interviewing for a job I make sure to specifically tell the person that I'm excited to have this opportunity and I want the job.
posted by 26.2 at 11:52 AM on December 17, 2012

You misunderstood the "here for fun" advice.

What you must convey is that you specifically want that job, not for fun, but because it is a great fit for you. Something about it aligns with your goals, skills, something, and will make you want to come to work in the morning. You won't flake off or leave as soon as you can get a $1/hr raise elsewhere. Etc.

What you must avoid conveying is that you would take any job and that this one for which you're applying is no better than any other.
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:11 PM on December 17, 2012

It seems to me that this question on The Workplace Stackexchange, "Why does “I want more money” have a negative connotation?", is similar to the question you're asking, so you might find it worthwhile to read.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:52 PM on December 17, 2012

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