Ask A Manager: What should you do if you're overqualified?

Ask A Manager: What should you do if you're overqualified?

It's no secret that getting hired for a new job is hard. Sometimes you might be overqualified. Sometimes you might have just the right qualifications and then your potential employer will ask for your credit report, and you know it won't be the best news. 

Every month, Alison Green from Ask a Manager helps us make sense of the ups and downs of work life. 

Weekend listener Selena wrote: My husband and I filed for bankruptcy. My husband was in commercial insurance and when the economy took a downward spiral in 2008, so did his career. When a credit and background check are required during the interview process, what should I say? I've always worked in the banking industry, but the financial institution I currently work at is closing and now I'm worried about getting a job.

Alison Green: I'd say, be proactive about explaining it. A lot of people have bad luck that affects their finances, especially if they had gone through layoffs or medical bills. Employers know that. If you explain it upfront and give them the context, it's probably not going to be an issue. When employers do credit checks for positions that work with money, they're looking for a pattern of irresponsibility with money. If you're worried that something might come up that will cause a problem, explain it ahead of time, so they context for what they see and it will almost always go better that way.

Weekend listener Kevin wrote: I've been searching for a new position for over a year. I was director of engineering for a large company for 16 years. I'm currently 56 years old, and this is the first time I've been unemployed since the age of 12. When I was a hiring manager, many of my best hires came in through employee referrals. When someone in my network champions my resume into recruiting for a position, recruiting seems to be offended that my contact is trying to do their job. What's the best way to use your network in a job search?

Alison Green: Good recruiting departments do welcome good referrals, so if he's getting the sense that they're kind of bristling at it, it's possible that he's run into some not great recruiters. In general, it's smart to use your network to find out about job openings, to get introductions to people at companies where you're interested in working, to vouch for you to their own contacts if you're applying for a job where they have a connection to the hiring manager. The thing that is less common for people to realize they can do with their network, is to use it to just get background information. 'This is what it's like to work at this company, this hiring manager is great and this one is to be avoided at all costs, this company puts a high emphasis on trait X or skill Y.'

Kevin also wanted to know what he should do he's overqualified for a position. 

Alison Green: It's definitely true that hiring managers worry about hiring someone who might be overqualified. The worry is you'll be bored or you'll neglect the less glamorous pieces of the job and focus too much on things that interest you more but aren't so core to the role, or that you'll leave as soon as something better comes along. If you're applying for a job that's a bit lower level than what you've done in the past, you just need to explain why those things won't be true for you and you need to explain it in a believable way. Talk about why you're really excited about this job and why you're not looking for something with more responsibility. Maybe, it's that you know from having more and more responsibility in the past that you're happier when you're not managing a team. That is going to be very believable to anyone who has managed a team. Maybe, it's that you feel like you went as high as you could go on a particular track, and now you're excited about the opportunity to focus more deeply on something else.

Last question comes from Kay, who's applied to 700 jobs, but nothing has worked out so far: what should he do differently? 

Alison Green: 700 jobs is a lot, and it makes me wonder if Kay has been focusing on quantity at the expense of quality. You'll usually get better results if you apply to fewer jobs and spend more time tailoring each application to the job. I would also take a fresh look at what is in your resume and whether you're presenting yourself as someone with a track record of getting things done. The mistake that I see people make all the time is having a resume that reads like their job descriptions read, so just listing off the activities that they did, rather than the outcomes they got. The other thing I would look at for Kay is whether he's getting interviews. If he says then the problem may not be a resume and cover letter, but how he's coming across in interviews. And if that's the case, it could be worth role-playing some interviews. If he has a friend or a family member who's done some hiring and is willing to sit down and do some interview role-playing, that's a pretty good way to get some feedback on how you're coming across. 

For more tips from Alison Green, click on the media player above.

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