Proactive vs. Desperate Job Search Behavior: 5 Ways to Tell the Difference


In a competitive job market, certain behaviors and qualities tend to stand out and leave a strong impression. These include social boldness, extroversion, a willingness to take risks and a willingness to show extreme enthusiasm and dedication to an employer.

But unfortunately, not all of us actually possess these traits, and when candidates try to fake enthusiasm or determination they don’t actually feel, the results can be awkward – like sending the manager a cake frosted with the words, “Please hire me.” Sometimes these gestures work beautifully, and sometimes they fall flat. If you’re tempted to go over the top or push the boundaries of normal social behavior in an attempt to gain a hiring manger’s attention, here’s a quick guide to help you recognize the difference between proactive boldness and cringe-inducing desperation. Ask yourself these questions before you proceed.

1. Put yourself in the hiring mangers position, and be honest. Would you find this behavior impressive? Or just annoying?

Calling to follow up two days after an interview is a standard move that managers usually interpret as proactive. Calling three times a day every day for a week straight is an unusual move that most of your competitors will opt not to do. So will these extra calls help you stand out from the crowd, or will they drop your chances to zero? Put yourself in the manager’s position. As you do so, you’ll probably recognize that a barrage of annoying calls won’t make the selection process move forward any faster.

2. Does your unconventional behavior demonstrate a skill or trait that applies specifically to this job?

Baking a beautiful cake decorated with your phone number might be a clever move if you’re applying for work with a baking company. But if you’re trying to get a job as an ER nurse, a dental hygienist or an electrical engineer, your baking skills won’t say much about your qualifications. Consider this before going the extra mile to stand out.

3. Is your behavior likely to make anyone feel cornered? Or, much worse, threatened?

Demanding an answer, cornering a manager into saying yes or making any attempt at social or emotional blackmail is a terrible, terrible idea. Think carefully before you send a hiring manager a sad photo of your children with a reminder that you’re unemployed. And of course, if a hiring manger asks you to cease your campaign, whatever it is, stop immediately.

4. Are you being true to yourself? Or are you betraying your natural instincts and your personality?

Sometimes in a zeal to come off as extroverted and bold, introverted and shy people do things that go against their nature in every way. Don’t do this. Unless you’re a professional actor, hiding your true personality is more difficult than you may realize.

5. Are the potential benefits worth the risk?

Do you really want this job so much that it’s worth the risk you have in mind? Consider a woman at a recent job fair who chased a hiring manager across a crowded auditorium saying, “I’ll sweep floors, I’ll get coffee, I’ll do anything!” If you find yourself in this position and you’re hired to sweep floors and get coffee, will you be satisfied? If the answer is yes, keep chasing. But if not, stop. Be realistic and stay focused on your actual goals.

Published on LiveCareer