Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

10 Steps to Avoid Looking Desperate During a Job Interview

By James Ball | Mar 10, 2015 | Candidate Tips

A job search can sometimes seem like a thankless task, especially if you’re getting knock-back after knock-back.

I’ve got a friend who was made redundant from a really good job at a brewery in 2005.  It took him over 6 months to get back into full-time employment and even by his admission, by the time he clinched a new job he was beginning to get a bit desperate.

However, I believe why he was successful was because he made a concerted attempt to hide this air of desperation in an interview and demonstrate to a potential employer exactly what he had to offer instead.

With this in mind, here are our top ten tips to help avoid looking desperate in a job interview.

1. First impressions count

It’s impossible to stress enough just how important it is to make a good first impression in an interview.

From the moment you enter the building you need to remember that you will be judged on everything you do.  So as well as dressing to impress, you need to ensure that you have a firm handshake that exudes confidence.

Smile politely, engage in conversation and use a charm offensive to make the interviewer warm to you.  You want to use your first impression to set the tone of the interview.  So come across as professional, confident and focused but at the same time, relaxed, and the interviewer will be impressed.

2. Temper your humour

I was once in a final interview for a great job with an electronic retailer.  When asked if I had any weaknesses, I decided to chuck in that I was a recovering kleptomaniac, which I was sure would raise a smile from the interviewer.

Instead they calmly wrote it down asking me if kleptomaniac was spelt with a ‘c’, or a ‘k’.  Needless to say the joke backfired and I didn’t get the job!

So my advice would be to be careful with the throwaway comments.  We all get a little nervous in an interview and blurt out something a little daft (see above).  But any attempts at humour in an interview are usually an obvious sign of nervousness taking hold.

And try and avoid turning your interviewer into your co-conspirator.  By saying things like “you know what I mean”, or “I’m sure you know the kind of thing I’m talking about”, you cross a line from a formal discussion into informal and rather invasive presumptions about the interviewer.  Remember you are there to impress for a new job, not to try and gain a new friend.

3. Be balanced with your answers

Obviously you want to get across to an interviewer just how great you are.  But if you overdo this, it will backfire and make you look desperate.

Temper your answers with some balance – if you made a mistake in a previous job, own up to it and demonstrate how you learned from the experience and put those learnings into practice.

Try not to be too extreme with your answers either.  If you can, avoid using terms to describe current and previous work experiences as ‘totally awful’ or ‘totally incredible’.

Terms like this are often discounted by an interviewer as unrealistic and unbalanced.  Try and find the middle ground to describe your experience and you won’t sound as desperate to convey exaggerated viewpoints.

4. Don’t make excuses

Remember that interviews are an exercise in self-promotion and that if you do have a few hiccups in a CV, or a long stretch out of work, don’t try and cover them up with self-effacing excuses.

Making any comments about your lack of skills, lack of confidence and not feeling worthy, will ultimately turn off a prospective employer.  The recruiter will have a wide choice of individuals to select from and understanding your personal issues isn’t their top priority.

Interviewers want to hear about responsibility and accountability, which takes us neatly onto the next point…

5. Don’t play the blame game

In an interview it’s really easy to slate a previous employer.  Don’t.  Ever.

No potential employer wants to bring a moaner into the team.  If you go into an interview and start pointing fingers at former colleagues and managers, you’re going to appear weak, lacking in the ability to be either a team player or to lead/manage, and you’ll most likely come across as desperate.

Avoid placing the blame at somebody else’s door.  Regardless of the situation, never tell the interviewer that you lost your job or a project fell apart due to the incompetence of another person.

And don’t blame the economy or the job market as this will be frowned upon during an interview and will be seen as a further indicator or a wider tendency to place blame rather than accept responsibility.

6. Alleviate the nerves

It would be churlish to simply say you should always approach every interview with an air of confidence.  But if you have prepared for an interview correctly, then not only will you be able to display an air of confidence, but you should also be able to remain cool and calm.

Prepare for the interview by writing out your strengths and the career experience that you feel is particular relevant to the position you are being interviewed for.

Read through these strengths many times and elaborate on them out loud, as if talking to the interviewer.  The more that you know this aspect of yourself inside out, the easier it will flow for you during the interview.

Do the same preparation for common interview questions and make sure you do plenty of background research into the company you’re applying for.

During the interview be careful not to dwell on problems from the past, concentrate on punctuating your strengths, detailing exactly what skills you could bring to the potential employer.

Finally, you’ll often get asked at the end of an interview if you have any questions.  To really wow an interviewer, make sure you prepare a few which are relevant to the business and the role.  It will make you look like you’re genuinely interested and will set you apart from the competition, and in turn should help alleviate any nerves you might have.

7. Don’t use desperate language

Ok, this is the topic of the whole blog, but what I’m trying to get at here is you need to avoid sounding desperate with the language you use.

You may well have had a long job search before you managed to get any success.  But even though your search for a new role has been arduous, you really don’t want to communicate just how desperate you’ve become.

Rather than stating that you’ll ‘do anything’ to land the job, focus instead on how you have the right experience or education to land the job.

But be careful not to oversell yourself.  Outline your strengths, but be humble when talking about your accomplishments.  Nobody wants to hear a narcissistic rant about how awesome you are and how you single-handedly saved the last company.

8. Don’t act too available

One of the tricks of avoiding looking desperate is to give your prospective employer the impression that other companies, possibly their competitors, are pursuing you (even if they aren’t).  One useful trick is to give the distinct impression you have other interviews lined up.

Economists call it supply and demand – you make out that you’re in demand, and suddenly the urgency to act on you increases.

And if you bag the job and offer comes through, you need to create the illusion that you are fielding other offers.  Listen intently to what the interview has to offer and say.

If he or she makes you an offer, thank the interviewer and ask if you can call him or her back later that day.  Resist the temptation of accepting there and then as there might be some negotiation you can leverage.

If you decide to do this, don’t wait too long or else the employer may think you aren’t interested.  However don’t just jump with an answer of “yes” the minute the interviewer presents the offer. You still want to obtain the best scenario for you.

9. The importance of body language

Watch your body language and tone as a massive 55% of our communication is derived through our body language in an interview situation.

Therefore, try and take the time to practice a role play with a seated interview in front of a mirror.

Notice how you’re coming across when you say certain things, such as describing why you want the job, talking about the company’s background and answering standard (or not-so-standard) interview questions.  You might even video yourself using your phone or tablet.

Whatever method you use, look for body language and demeanor tell-tale signs of confidence or desperation. For example, a confident interviewee will sit tall but not rigidly, will lean slightly in toward the interviewers and will smile more often than not. A desperate interviewee might fidget, look down, push the chair back a little and make poor eye contact.

For further help with understanding the importance of body language within an interview, you can read our eGuide, entitled ‘Reading into Things’, which you download for free here.

10. The follow-up

There’s a fine line between being interested and being desperate.

Don’t ring the interviewer immediately after the interview as again this could be a sign of desperation.  But do contact the interviewer within 48 hours of the interview with both a follow-up email and phone call.

In the email state how much you enjoyed meeting the interviewer and re-iterate that you are open to answer any questions that were not covered during the interview.  Avoid re-stating why you think you are the perfect fit for the job as the interviewer already know the reasons you want the job and will be able to sense the desperation in your email.

Only follow up once, but make sure your follow-up left a positive (and not desperate) impression.  If you follow up two days later but don’t hear anything a day or two later, leave it alone.

At this point the interviewer knows you’re very interested in the job and if you keep calling and/or following up, he or she may get annoyed with you.

Also, when you make that follow up call, be upbeat and to the point. Tell the interviewer you were touching base in case he or she had any additional questions, and then mention something about the positive exchange you had.


Interviews are stressful for most of us, and the interviewer will understand that before you even get in the room.  However, desperation is very unattractive and will only serve to get your application rejected.

The key to any interview success is preparation.  Make sure you take the points above on board and practice, practice, practice and hopefully you’ll impress the pants off anybody that you sit in front of.

Good luck!

- James Ball

James Ball

James is the founder and owner of Coburg Banks and a recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield in the UK.  He regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment processes.

> More blog posts by James Ball

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