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How to disguise desperation in your CV

If you’re looking for a job and you can’t find one, you may be feeling a little concerned – especially if you’ve been looking unsuccessfully for some time. If this concern leaks into your CV, it will prove counterproductive: no one wants to hire someone who smells of desperation, no matter how faint the odour.

Recruiters have methods of spotting desperation in CVs. You need to know these and you need to avoid them. Your CV will not look desperate, just as long as you adhere closely to the following:

1) Be objective, not subjective

Desperate CVs are subjective about achievements and abilities. They will say things like, “an outstanding team player with excellent delivery skills,” and, “a world class dealmaker with a history of achievement.”

Non-desperate CVs do without this effusiveness. They don’t make woolly claims in an effort to impress and the claims they do make are substantiated with fact.

“Too much sugar isn’t a good idea,” says Philip Beddows founding partner at coaching and mentoring firm The Silk Road Partnership. “Everything needs to be objective. People need a very real idea of what you can deliver to a new employer.”

“Desperate CVs often have over-enthusiastic synopses,” says a recruiter. “You can spot them a mile away.”

2) Apply for roles appropriate to your experience

If you’re submitting your CV for roles which don’t match your experience, or for roles for which you are over-qualified, you will immediately be deemed desperate by recruiters.

“Last week, I had a CV from a trader who was applying for a role in trade support,” says one recruiter. “You have to ask why on earth that was.”

If you genuinely can’t find a role that does match your experience and are compelled to apply for all sorts of other roles that are on offer, you may feel there is little you can do about this. However, recruiters say you can help mitigate your apparent desperation by adding a covering letter or CV statement explaining why you’re interested in making a regressive or tangential career move, and why you’re appropriate to that role. You need to get the hiring manager to empathise with you in this.

“If you’re applying for a more junior role than you did previously, you will probably be submitting your application to someone at your level,” says the recruiter. “For example, if you were a project manager and you’re applying to be a senior developer, you will probably be submitting your CV to another project manager. They’ll be wondering why on earth you want to take a step back and thinking they’d never do it themselves. You need to convince them on a human level why you’re serious about this.”

3) Be a little friendly, not entirely formal

When you’re desperate, it may seem wise to be as polite and as formal as possible in your CV in order to underscore your professionalism. However, this can also make you seem unintentionally brittle and aloof.

The place for friendliness is in the personal interests section at the end of the CV. Use this to inject an intimate element to the document. Refer to yourself in the first person, advises Beddows: “You need to bring a human element to your proposition,” he advises.

4) Don’t disgorge your life into it

Desperation is a CV that runs to multiple pages and includes every single career event in a lifetime. The best CVs are short, sweet, chronological, and focused.

“You need a focused punch to your CV,” says Beddows. “Think through what your proposition is to the market. Why would someone hire you instead of an alternative candidate? There’s no point putting in a whole load of detailed stuff which doesn’t add any value and doesn’t substantiate the message you’re trying to communicate.”

Comments (12)

  1. did they ever run interviews with CV like that? most of recruiters dont know what they are reading!

  2. Well, well…………………
    Introductory statement about “smell” absolutely desplicable but unfortunately correct. Trouble is that even candidates do not realize that they smell desperate…….that is something you exchange like hormones messages. I wonder why helping someone with skills -and in trouble- is so un-cool……
    Point 1) Chicken or egg? Heard and read dozen times that one must represent / promote himself and not just let the CV speak. Now we are reversing (?!). To be constructive, it would perhaps be better to describe how can one be objective; if describing facts such as achieving certain goals is different from simply saying that you are an achiever, I cannot see much difference. Ink won’t prove anything, you’ve got to talk to people.
    Point 2) So What? Is a junior going to do a better job? Or is he guaranteeing the employer that he will last longer in the job? …….please………..
    Point 3) Cosmic rubbish
    Point 4) If you make your cv short they want to know why you did not put more details; if you do not put them, then it is too succint………….
    Bloody make up your mind, recruiters and TALK to people.

  3. Agencies are not great your better off approaching companies directly in this client and using your contacts. I have had some shocking interviews the latest one with KPMG for a regulatory role where the woman interviewing me lead me into a room and said that it was not the champagne fast life style here, now I know I was dressed smartly but you should never judge a book by its cover and it had not relevance to the job I was going for. The interview was completely un-structured first ten minutes she launched into how she was a single mother and her commute into work. The interview began and it had no there were no relevant questions to the jobs specification provided she then spen the last five minutes looking at the clock. The worst interview I have had in all ten years in London definately do not want to work there HR sent me a long letter explaining how she was a professional manager and experienced at interviews – very unprofessional.

  4. The whole industry is desperate and sh;tting itself.
    Learn to act. To be cool. Pretend you’re vying for the attention of Kate Moss..

  5. I’m 27, prop trader at tier 1 bank, and its now been one YEAR since i was made redundant.

    I didnt even lose money as a trader, but the stench of redundancy stinks to the heavens. I’ve NEVER EVEEER gone to an interview and not got the job. Since redundancy, I haven’t got a single offer.

    This article is totally right about the stink of desperation. But unfortunately, if you’re about to be evicted from your house and you need to do any job just to make the rent, then no matter how confident you sound, applying to trade support says more than your words ever could.

    I’ve started applying to every kind of operations, risk, middle and back office role going, and nobody will return my calls. One recruiter at Hays refused to take my CV, open proclaiming “mate, we dont do traders, you take any job when times are bad then disappear 3 months later when you get another job”.

    which is fair enough, i understand where he’s coming from. but my understanding his take on things doesnt pay my rent.

    This week i’ve started applying for cleaning and driving jobs. no joke.. and guess what.. cant get those either.. who wants a big trader when you can have an experienced cleaner??

    room to

  6. to “in trouble”:
    Since you are a trader you will understand the concept of time value, right? You are just 27 kid, you’re not in trouble. Look at things in perspective and if you allow, here’s what you should do:

    Go back to your parents and save money. Use that money to finance:
    1) Retraining
    2) Applying to stage jobs in other industries (front/middle/back office); if you’ve got the skills you just need to get the foot through the door.

    PS: i am not a recruiter, and I wish I had your age to do the above, mate.

    redundant grandpa Reply
  7. @ redundant grandpa..

    thanks for the advice. you are right, but i am married so its a bit harder to move to our parents. but we’ve wiped out all our savings now so we might have to do it anyway…
    wish you all the best for getting back on your feet !

  8. @ In Trouble – I feel for you – it’s an awful time out there. Recruiters do nothing to to make you feel better. Acutally it’s in their interest to bash your ego so you’ll take any drek they may eventually think you’re a candidate for. Forget them. Use your network. Get on LinkedIn and Facebook and get back in touch with people you’ve lost touch with. If you belong to a church hang around and chat to everyone after the service. Let the vicar in on your situation and he/she might know someone who can use a chap like you. Go to university alumni events. This is another way to bump into people who might have some leads for you. Don’t be discouraged. Giving up won’t make your situation resolve itself. Good luck.

  9. I feel for you. The only think I want to say is that you should fight and find a job related to your experience. You have got an advantage “experience”, there are out there so many people, new graduates, without experience and they could say that are struggling. You are OK and I do not think you can layback because you are only 27 and you have got time. Very soon you will be 30-31 and instead of going up you go down. Fight now when you are young. I hope I was not to rough in words; you need to get your confidence back.
    Good luck

  10. Just go on benefits. Thats what everyone else does in this country. Anyhow, working for a bank now is the same as working for the government. Speaking of smell, the whole system reeks.

  11. redundant grandpa@ you should be a recruiter, you could teach those vile lot how to be decent.

  12. @ introuble – im in the same boat. good to see your taking humble pie and applying for cleaning jobs. may teach you some new skills. although i’d suggest changing your cv…

    oh and yeah, i doubt mr recruiter cares about you not being able to pay rent. he’s smelled you a mile away.

    same happened to me – i went for side and up move, senior trader felt i wasnt going to stick around once i gained my experience so didnt take me on. thus managers knew i was looking, hence simple economics – i got the chop.

    its tough, it hurts, but things get better. unless of course your a complete A-hole. then you deserve everything. (you, meaning people in general)

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