…. being “overqualified”
John is been out of work for nine months. He just plain can’t understand why the whole world has not beaten down his door to hire him. For 12 years his company was telling him how wonderful he was, they were promoting him and giving him all kinds of plaques, raises and honors because he was such a great employee. His company was sold. His job was redundant and so they laid him off. Nice severance, they still laid him off.
As with many people who have even reasonable, if not, stellar careers, John thought all he would have to do is let the world know that he was available to be hired and it would stop spinning until he found a new job. Well, it doesn’t work that way.
John has found that there are very few jobs for an executive vice president. Companies rarely hire those kind of people “off the street.” 99% of the time a job like this is obtained just the way John attained it, by performing and getting promoted.
John went through all of his contacts and competitors only to hear that he was “overqualified”for the opportunities that they had available. They just didn’t need an executive vice president. He did have three interviews in that nine months…even for positions close to the level that he was. He was competing with nine other candidates in one instance, seven others in another instance and didn’t even ask how many others in the third opportunity. Unfortunately, he never got beyond the first interview with any of the companies. In two instances the people who interviewed him were kind enough to explain to him that the reason he didn’t get hired had nothing to do with anything he did or didn’t do, it was simply that there were other candidates they felt were better suited for the job.
John was at wits end and didn’t know what to do. One answer is pretty simple. Dumb down your resume and seek opportunities that are one or two steps below where you’ve been. Set your ego aside and forget the idea that “I’m so good, there has got to be at least one opportunity out there that I can get,” and go after just about any job you can find within reason.
We recommended that to John as well as explaining to him that when he interviews he has to sell himself differently than normal candidates. He has to be able to say to individuals he is interviewing with something along the line of:
“I realize that I have attained positions that are higher than this one I am interviewing for. But I have found that if I like the job I’m doing and I like the people that I’m doing it with and I’m being fairly compensated the future will take care of itself because I am a performer. (Whatever position he is applying for he needs to explain). I’ve been in the shoes of this position before and I have performed very well. I know if I perform well, I don’t have to worry about where it’s going to take me. Level of job that I’ve had before is one that people mostly grow into. If the opportunity is there, I may very well be able to do that, but now, I do need a job and even though I might appear to be overqualified I can do an excellent job for you and you are the kind of company that I would like to go to work for.”
John can elaborate on this type of conversation. That is the essence of what he needs to say as well as saying it with believable humility. If John, however, says this with any kind of false pride or insincerity he won’t get hired. Anything along the line of, “well, I guess I’d take this job if I was offered it since I can’t find anything else, but geewhiz I worked so hard to become an executive VP it is hard to imagine that there’s not a job out there like that for me…” he will shoot himself in the foot and he might as well not have even showed up for the interview.
Now, the biggest issue that’s running through an employer’s head is this, “if I hire this guy and he gets a call two months from now from someone who is looking for an executive VP, he’s going to leave.”
Before the prospective employer voices this concern…and he or she will, John has to say something along this line:
“I’m sure you might be wondering about the possibility of someone that I have apply to in the past calling me sometime in the future and offering the chance to speak with them about an executive VP level job. The truth is that people…and especially myself… If they are happy at what they’re doing, like the people and the company they work for And are being compensated fairly, don’t just go off and interview for another position. Interviewing and looking for a job is a very painful and emotionally difficult thing to do. Look at my track record, I’ve stayed at every company I have worked with for XXXXX number of years. I just don’t interview or leave companies on a whim. If I am fortunate enough to go to work here, I will be a great employee for a long period of time.”
John needs to say this convincingly, with emotion and without hesitation. He can elaborate on this idea. The truth is that if people do like what they’re doing and like that people are doing it with and like the company they’re doing it with and are fairly compensated they don’t just truck off and interview at the drop of a hat. How do I know? I’m a recruiter! I call people all the time to see if they’d be interested in changing jobs. If they are within 70% happy with what they’re doing and who they are doing it with, they basically tell me to, go pound salt. One of the last things that people like doing is looking for a job. If they’re happy doing what they’re doing they just don’t go off an interview because a guy like me calls them.
Now it may take a little more convincing than these few sentences, but you get the idea. Every good leader knows how to be a good follower.
This presentation doesn’t work all the time, but it does work more often than not. Overqualified people can find a job!