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The delicate art of disguising desperation when chasing banking jobs

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These are still desperate times. According to research from Bloomberg, by the end of this year the U.K. banks Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and RBS, will have cut a combined 189,000 jobs compared to before the financial crisis. People who lose their jobs struggle to find new ones soon: our research shows that only around 16% of people leaving their jobs in the City of London find new ones within a three month period.

However, if you're a banker looking for a job, displaying desperation or concern about the state of the job market is a poor play. Desperation is often equated with weakness.

"In the system that we live in, vulnerability is frowned upon," said psychologist Oliver James, author of a recent book on office politics. "You need to look at everything you do in a working environment as impression management. If you're feeling desperate, divorce yourself from your true feelings and decide to adopt a facade," he advised.

When you're pursuing a rare banking job, recruiters and coaches suggest five tactics for desperation concealment. They are:

1. Speak in years not months

If you're an experienced banker and you've been out of the market for months rather than years, disguise the gap in your employment by referring to previous jobs on your résumé in terms of years only. "If you're junior, you'll always need to include months when you're talking about the jobs you've done," said Victoria McLean at City CV. "But if you're a more senior person, you can be very clever about this kind of thing," she added.

2. Apply semantic filters to both your résumé and cover letter

Read back through your CV. Are there words there that subtly convey your desperation? The same applies to your cover letter.

"The language you use is really important," said McLean. "You want to come across with confidence. I always think that phrases like, 'I hope...', or, 'I really hope...', or 'I can turn my hand to anything,' or 'I'm a career changer and willing to work my way up, sound desperate."

3. Talk slowly

It may sound obvious, but when you're desperate or nervous, you will be more likely to gabble.

"Talking fast is a sign of nervousness," said Michael Moran, chief executive at career coaching firm 10Eighty. "You can avoid talking fast in an interview by practicing what you're going to say before you get in," he advises.

4. Take control of your body 

If you want to project confidence and dispel desperation, you're advised to strike a power pose for a few moments in private before you walk into a job interview. For reasons that are unclear, but scientifically proven, this will make the interviewer perceive you as more confident and powerful. You're also advised to write a quick paragraph about a time you felt powerful and in control.

By the same token, avoid body language both before and during the interview that suggests nervousness (eg. hunching over) - and avoid recalling any times when you felt out of your depth.

When you're in the interview, a big desperation give-away is often the hot flush, said Moran. "Women especially will often find that their skin tone changes colour on their face and neck when they're nervous," he said. Moran advised two strategies: cover up your network or rehearse what you're going to say carefully so that you feel less stressed.  

5. Use LinkedIn judiciously 

If you're out of the market, LinkedIn may seem the perfect place to make yourself known to recruiters and bankers who barely know you. However, the head of European recruitment at one North American bank said this is an inadvisable strategy. "I get all sorts of people trying to get in contact with me on LinkedIn. Unless I know them already, I tend to be suspicious of their motives," he said.

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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