It's Hard Not to Grovel on a Job Search

03/09/2011 01:36 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Liz Ryan Speaker, writer, soprano and mom; founder, Human Workplace

Dear Liz,

I've been interviewing for seven months without an offer (six interviews, about one a month) and I'm getting somewhat desperate. This translates into me really wanting every job I interview for (I want the ones I don't interview for, too) and pretty much groveling my way through every interview. I know you don't recommend that, but how do I keep myself from groveling when I need a job badly?



Hi Celeste,

It will help you if you remember that groveling for a job doesn't help your chances. It is very likely to hurt them, in fact. Think about what inspires a hiring manager to create a job ad: that manager has so much business pain that he or she is willing to spend precious budget
dollars to make the pain go away. (If the pain were less severe, the manager would wait another quarter, or use a temp or an intern, or spread the extra work around). Something is seriously not working. What type of person does the manager need to relieve that pain? He or
she needs someone powerful and self-confident to walk in and get things right. Is that person likely to be a subservient, grovelly person?

No -- of course not. The person who can save the day and fix whatever's broken is not a groveler.

The people who are lobbing resumes into black holes across the country, chasing phantom jobs and even Craigslist scams, paying resume-blast services that promise to send out hundreds of resumes, and so on -- they're not getting hired using those methods. People who are reclaiming their histories, framing their backgrounds and aspirations around particular career directions, remembering what sorts of pain they solve, seeking out those employers (whether they've got open jobs posted, or not) and reaching out to hiring managers with relevant pain messages -- they are getting hired.

If a job opportunity seems to require you to grovel, run away. These jobs have a terrible track record. Most of the people who put up with loads of BS in the hiring process and go along with every ridiculous request, don't get hired. The person who does get hired into a job
like that almost invariably ends up unhappy and quits or gets fired in short order. When the red flags are all over the hiring process, it's just a bad deal. You can try to ignore the red flags, but I can almost guarantee that you're regret it later if you do that.

When you run into a job-hunt situation where you have the choice between groveling and not groveling, I encourage you to take the non-grovelly path. That's a litmus test for the employer. Here's an example:

SHE: So, Celeste, what are your weaknesses? YOU: You know, it's a great question. Throughout my twenties, I was so worried about things that I wasn't especially good at, and I worked so hard to get better at those things! I took programming classes to keep up with the programmers in my office, which was a hopeless cause... I'm just not a programmer. Nowadays, I look at things differently. I've learned enough to put myself in situations where I get to do things I'm good at and love to do, like building marketing plans and running them. That's exciting for me and I seem to have a knack for it. I'm into self-improvement, especially at home -- I do Pilates and I meditate -- but it's enrichment for me, versus fixing something that needs correcting. I try to steer myself into the right situations, where I am in my power and can do great work, and keep myself out of situations where I'd have to do things I've got no business doing, programming among them!

Now the hiring manager has a choice. He or she can consider hiring adult, self-aware Celeste, who's figured out what she's good at and doesn't waste time trying to shore up her skills in areas she shouldn't be within a hundred yards of, or groveling Someone Else who lists his or her 'weaknesses' on command.

Which person would you hire?