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The Case for Moderation in Your Job Search

Going all-out may be counterproductive.

Weltenraser, Noun Project, Public Domain
Source: Weltenraser, Noun Project, Public Domain

If you need to find a job, the instinct may be to go all out, hoping that a sprint will get the job-hunting done quickly and you’ll again have the income, structure, and self-esteem that comes from landing a new job.

The sprint job search works for some people, especially those who are stars and/or well-connected.

But many other people are wise to go moderate. What does moderation look like?

Conserve your emotional gas tank. Most job searchers start out with a full tank of emotional gas. Each application or pitch to your network, especially those that get ignored or rejected, burns some gas. You don’t want to run out before landing a good job. So, care enough to job-hunt well but let go of the outcome and move on to your next job-search activity or—per moderation—take a break.

Be judicious in creating your resume and LinkedIn profile. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. In your resume and LinkedIn profile, what title, summary, duties, and accomplishments would, without exaggeration, impress your target employer. Don’t oversell. If you do, that may get you an interview, but on probing, your claims may seem fishy. And even if you manage to get the job on false or exaggerated pretenses, you’re setting yourself up for failure and being back on the street.

Prepare only moderately for interviews. Overpreparing doesn't just burn a lot of emotional gas, it can make you appear desperate or even invasive. I had a client who spent 20 hours prepping: She read every imaginable article on the company and the interviewers. She scripted and memorized answers to the five questions she was most afraid they'd ask. She didn't get the job and when she asked why, the recruiter explained that the interviewers had the sense that if she devoted that much time to the interview, perhaps she was compensating for her weaknesses as a would-be employee. Also, a couple of her answers seemed too perfect and were delivered robotically, like she had memorized a script. Also, one interviewer felt a little invaded: "That candidate dug up so much on me, she knew me better than my husband does."

Interview with integrity. Don’t oversell. Savvy interviewers may smell it out, usually by asking probing questions and by noticing whether your claimed accomplishments and writing are consistent with the intelligence, expertise, and drive that you demonstrate in the interview.

Yes, highlight the legitimate strengths that would impress that employer, perhaps using anecdotes describing a problem you faced, your clever or dogged approach, and the positive result. You might even want to reveal a relevant weakness. That will gain you credibility, nix you from ill-suited jobs, and make you more likely to get selected for a job that values you, despite a weakness or two. We all have them.

Be picky in choosing ads to respond to. Advertised openings for good jobs tend to get dozens if not hundreds of applications. To have a shot at getting one, apply only to solid fits and then take the time to craft a letter and adapt your resume to demonstrate that fit. Also perhaps append a piece of collateral material to the resume. A type of collateral material that has worked for my clients is a one-pager that displays current knowledge of something key to the job, for example, “Five New Best Practices in Substance Abuse Counseling.”

Negotiate as a statesman. It can be tempting to try to extract as much as you can in the negotiation. If the employer’s offer isn't very good, yes, counter but don’t be unfair. I’ve seen a few clients have the job offer pulled: “Clearly, we’re far apart and I don’t want a disgruntled employee. So, I’ve now offered the job to someone else.”

The takeaway

Moderation in your job search will make the process more pleasant, avoid seeming desperate, reduce your chances of running out of emotional gas before you land a job, and increase your chances of landing a job at which both you and the employer will feel good.

I read this aloud on YouTube.