From Overqualified to Employed

As their weeks on the unemployment roles turn into months, job seekers often apply for lower-level positions, only to be rebuffed by employers as overqualified. Bewildered job seekers were looking for solutions when they posed this question on the Dice Discussions board: "Don’t these recruiters understand we need a job?" Of course they do. But they also know that under-employed workers have a tendency to jump ship as soon as a better offer comes along.

Number OneAlthough it’s impossible to provide a list of totally foolproof solutions, by using these tactics and showing some tenacity, you’ll stand a better chance of overcoming a prospective employer’s fears about your hefty work experience and salary history.

  • Soften Your Approach: Eliminate previous titles like vice president and director from your resume and substitute more generic titles like leader or manager. Provide task and accomplishment bullets that are appropriate for the position you’re seeking, and tone down your style during interviews. Remember: You won’t be hired if a prospective manager fears you’ll overshadow him or be too headstrong to manage.
  • Leave no Doubt: Create a compelling case for why you won’t quit if a better deal comes along. Maybe your personal situation changed, for example. If you don’t have a history of jumping jobs for more money, be sure to point that out. If money isn’t your primary objective, talk about what does motivate you. Validate your rationale using specific examples to sway any doubters.
  • Pitch an Executive: Confident managers are more likely to see the benefits of hiring an experienced candidate, because having exceptional players and bench strength will help them achieve their own goals. Opportunistic managers want to cash in on today’s market conditions by upgrading staff. Recruiters, on the other hand, are often incented to reduce turnover and will have to source your replacement if you leave. They aren¿t always opposed to hiring an overqualified candidate, but it’s not necessarily in their best interest to do so.
  • Illustrate Your Value: You have to challenge employers to consider your value. Chances are you’re wiser, more productive and will require less training than a less-experienced worker. You’re also capable of mentoring and training the younger members of the staff. Illustrate the value you’ll deliver for the cost, so an employer just can’t afford to pass you by.
  • Diminish the Risk: For employers, hiring an overqualified worker is about risk versus reward. If you stay two years but contribute more during that time than a less-experienced worker, it’s a win. There’s no guarantee that a less-experienced worker will stay longer – or even succeed in the first place. To overcome an employer’s fears about hiring a proven performer with greater experience, introduce the idea that there’s actually more risk associated with hiring less-experienced workers.

— Leslie Stevens-Huffman

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