Ask A Progeek – Desperation Gyrations

We’re always churning resumes and burning time as we try to find jobs.  Well a question that came up from the depths of geekdom relates to that, as someone asks:

How many times can you apply to the same company without looking desperate?

I hear this one every now and then, and it makes sense.  Who wants to look desperate in front of a hopeful future employer?  It simply looks bad, or can hit that there’s something wrong with you.  If you look like you’ve got something wrong with you, you might not get hired . . .

However it’s not quite what it seems . . .

When we worry about appearing desperate to someone there’s a reason for that – they’re one person who knows us and gets to know us.  Companies doing hiring aren’t individuals, they’re collections of people.  Between the recruiters, interviewers, hiring managers, and the poor intern who wishes they were paid, your different job applications are probably seen by many people.  So, in many ways, it’s hard to look desperate as there’s no one to look desperate too.

Even if one person sees you application, there’s also a lot of other people applying so standing out by looking particularly desperate is hard.  Unless you stand out, sorry, you’re just another piece of paper on the pile.

In a few cases, yes, in front of a single recruiter or person, for a smaller company or one that obsessively tracks things, you might come off as desperate.  Chances are, however, you’re not going to have the opportunity to look that desperate – and if you’re worried you can deal with that by not looking desperate in the first place with good cover letters, applying for appropriate jobs, etc.

But in general, I don’t see it as a worry.

In many cases the companies are too large to worry about having a chance to look desperate because things are so distributed.  I can personally say I’ve absolutely blitzed companies with resumes, and in turn had plenty of interviews at those very companies.  Maybe my natural charm and like ability kept me from looking desperate, but I’m betting on “really freaking huge, no one cared.”

Also remember that some companies may not care if you’re desperate if they’re lacking talent.  Some locations and companies seriously lack talent, and they’re not going to care if you’re really anxious to get a job.   The fact you’re breathing is probably a plus in some cases.

So here’s my advice: Don’t worry about it unless you specifically know you have to.

If anything worrying about looking desperate probably backfires, it makes you overcautious and you’ll miss opportunities.  Your worrying may also come across in your cover letters and interviews, and that can be misinterpreted as being unsure, cagey, etc.

So if you’re worried, let’s apply our geekery here:

  1. Have really good resumes and cover letters.  That way you’re worth looking at.
  2. Apply if the jobs really are relevant to you – that way the applications are appropriate so you don’t look desperate (or aren’t really being desperate).  You know the job, probably better than most people interviewing you after all.
  3. Communicate who you are effectively in interviews.  if you’re the right person and can show it, who cares if you applied for ten or twenty jobs?  Call on those skills and your knowledge!
  4. Stop worrying so much.

– Steven Savage

Steven Savage is a Geek 2.0 writer, speaker, blogger, and job coach.  He blogs on careers at, nerd and geek culture at, and does a site of creative tools at He can be reached at