How to Overcome “Overqualified”

A reader writes…

I am a 62 year old accountant former controller. I think it is time I dumb down my resume because I feel hiring managers think I am overqualified and/or will not stay when the economy improves.  What do you recommend?


Dear “Overqualified,”

Don’t you just cringe every time you’re told:

  1. You have too much experience
  2. Your previous position was much more senior-level
  3. You’re too highly paid
  4. Or (another “classic”) you have too much education?

Being coined as “overqualified” (which, by the way, is code for “not a good fit”) is a problem that many people encounter. In fact, sometimes you won’t even know this is what a potential employer is thinking… you’re just simply never called back!

Now, should you “dumb down” your résumé?
Heavens NO!

However, you should ensure that your résumé is tailored for the specific position you are going for.  I’ve written several posts that include résumé tips (take a look at this post I wrote earlier this month — “How to Tailor Your Résumé” http://anitaclew.com/2011/01/13/how-to-tailor-your-resume/#comments). 

There are ways to get around this issue without discounting your previous experience or qualifications.  Consider the following:

  1. Draw attention to your skills and accomplishments – NOT job titles
  2. Do not discuss salary. Make it clear from the beginning that your previous salary is not relevant to your current job search.
  3. Demonstrate loyalty. Let them know that you’re looking for a long-term career.  Point out your longevity with previous employers, if it’s relevant.  This may help overcome the fear that you’re going to jump ship the minute the economy changes or a “better offer” comes along.

Let’s do a little role playing, shall we?

The Interviewer: Thanks for your interest, but you seem overqualified for this position.
You: Can you please elaborate?  What are you specifically concerned about? (Find out why they’re making this assumption and nip it in the bud right away.)

The Interviewer: We think you’ll be bored on the job.
You: Before applying for this position, I seriously considered the job duties and responsibilities.  I actually think I would be a perfect fit.  Here’s why….

The Interviewer: You have held much higher positions, including management. Here you would be reporting to a direct supervisor and would have to handle a variety of projects and tasks.
You: That is EXACTLY what I’m looking for. You need a team player, someone who is ready to roll up his sleeves, take direction, and contribute to a common goal…  (Don’t get too carried away and overwhelm the hiring manager with your experience and qualifications – this can be particularly intimidating to younger hiring managers – remain confident and keep things in moderation.)

The key is to come to each interview prepared to address this concern. Be honest and upfront about what you’re looking for and why the particular position is of interest to you.  Remember, you may need to adjust your résumé (emphasizing skills, qualifications, ways you generated revenue, saved money, etc.) more than job titles.  You should be proud of your role as a Controller (for example), but seeing such a prestigious title in a résumé may prohibit you from being considered before you even have a chance to explain your situation in an interview.

Hey readers, have you been told you’re overqualified for a position?  How did YOU overcome that?
Look forward to hearing from you!

-Anita

Dating Co-Workers

A reader writes…

What are your thoughts about dating co-workers?

Dear “Workplace Romance” or “Office Aphrodite,”

For some companies, co-workers are considered “off-limits”…. like parking in the CEO’s reserved space. You just DON’T DO IT! Playing hooky on the same day, stealing a smooch in the break room … while it all seems like innocent fun and flirting, it can be considered distracting, perceived as unprofessional, and even be grounds for termination.

If, on the other hand, “colleague canoodling” is acceptable at your company, then let the romance blossom.  Just keep it out of the office, please.

Even if everyone knows you’re “an item,” you need to keep a low profile. Making co-workers uncomfortable by your flirtatious antics and/or nonstop visits is a no-no. Under any circumstance, you must remain professional and establish a THICK line between your personal and professional life. No matter how well you keep your romance under wraps… don’t be surprised by office gossip and the rumor mill … you WILL be front page news.

For many, developing a relationship at work can be ideal. It’s like having a crush on a kid in class… you look forward to going! As long as you can concentrate on your tasks and responsibilities, stay productive and professional… you’re golden. That is…. unless you have a fight or break up.

Suddenly, your workplace paradise has become an overnight nightmare. Consider passing in the hall, working side-by-side, or sitting in a business meeting… with your EX. Are the consequences worth it? I suppose that’s for you to decide.

My advice? Check “the rules” in your company handbook. And before you go wearing your heart on your “suit” sleeve… think twice.

Employee Performance Issues

A reader writes…

My company recently acquired another company and I have seen a lot of animosity among employees.  It’s been a case of “them” vs. “us” or “the new way” vs. “the old way” – which is creating low morale, poor attitudes, and is impacting overall performance. What can I do to resolve this conflict?

Dear “Switzerland,”

By the sheer fact that you’re asking for advice, I’m convinced that you’re trying to be a neutral party in this situation (hence the name “Switzerland”). It sounds like you don’t want to take sides, or potentially upset your coworkers by taking a firm stand and stopping this nonsense.

Aren’t you a manager?
Don’t you have the authority to change things?
Or… are you choosing not to?

Bridging the gap between two worlds is not easy, but trying to coax or persuade employees to play nice in the sandbox is not going to get you anywhere.  In fact, it may worsen the situation because people may feel they can walk all over management…. since they’re (you’re) not doing anything.

You must set precise, non-negotiable standards along with clear consequences for not following them. Perhaps a little “Conflict Management 101” is in order:

  • Sit down with the problem employees (individually) and clearly explain company expectations, standards, and what must change.  Be sure to remind them of the consequences if they don’t.
  • Give specifics of what must be done differently – if necessary, explain that future performance reviews, raises, or their JOB for that matter, may be in jeopardy if they do not comply or show immediate improvement.
  • Be aware of triggers and respond to them when first noticed.
  • Have a process for resolving conflicts — bring up the subject at a meeting, and get agreement on what people should do in cases of differing viewpoints.
  • Provide appropriate training for all employees. Teach everyone conflict-resolution skills, and expect people to use them.
  • Recognize and praise accomplishment
  • Last, but not least, discourage gossip.  Gossip makes my joints ache, my head spin, and my stomach turn.  It can poison office morale, relationships, and productivity.

Good luck…. And take charge!

How to Tailor Your Résumé

A reader writes…

Dear Anita,
What are some tips on tailoring a résumé for a specific position?

Dear, “Tailor,”

Tailoring your résumé for a specific position is a great way to stand out in the crowd.  In fact, unless your résumé includes certain “keywords,” it may not even be picked up by recruiters’ automated keyword searches (such as online résumé mining).

I know people who have 3 or 4 different “versions” of their résumé – certain skills or experiences are simply featured in each (that are relevant to the new job they are seeking).

Here are 5 quick and easy tips for you to follow:

  1. Study the job description and pull out a few important keywords.  You basically want to “talk the talk!”
  2. Incorporate these keywords or phrases into the body of your résumé.  If you have a “Profile” or “Summary” toward the top… that’s an ideal place to sprinkle in a few.  Whatever you do, don’t OVERdo it!  You don’t want to appear as though you’ve copy / pasted the job description into your “Experience” section! I’ve seen it done….  and it wasn’t pretty.
  3. Downplay items in your résumé that do not seem applicable to the position.  You may even want to remove these items completely.
  4.  Proofread your résumé carefully.  Sometimes making changes can result in formatting errors, typos, or unwanted duplicates of information.
  5. Last, but not least, ask a family member or close friend to review it before sending.  A fresh set of eyes is always a good thing!

For more help with your résumé, check out this Resume Writing service that offers great insight and suggestions.

Another way to go is to create a functional resume that focuses more on your skills and experience than a chronological list of jobs and associated duties. This type of resume may fit more job openings. THEN, you can tailor your resume based on the job you’re applying to. For example, you can reiterate your understanding of the position based on the ad and how your specific skills match up.

-Anita

Contacting a Company After an Interview

A reader writes….

How often should I call or email a company after an interview?  I don’t want to seem over eager, but in the meantime, the bills keep coming in!

Dear “Constant Contact,”

Everyone knows that follow-through is a very important part of the job search process. Call after submitting a résumé, call after the interview, call to see if the position is still open…!

But will TOO much contact be perceived as annoying?
Yes.

Is an annoying person likely to get the job?
No.

 There’s definitely a fine line between too much contact and not enough.  On the one hand, you want to stay top of mind and clearly express your interest in the position.  On the other hand… nobody wants a stalker!

At the end of any interview, ask about the next step in the process.  Say something like, “How soon do you anticipate filling this position?” Or plain and simply, “What is the next step in the process?”  Or maybe even a bolder approach, “When would it be ok for me to follow up with you again?”

The goal is to go away with an idea of when you will be notified and/or how quickly you should follow up.  As interviews wrap up, the interviewer typically asks the classic, “Do you have any questions for us?”  That’s your cue.

Now for my post-interview checklist:

  1. Write a “Thank You” note and send it immediately.  NOT an email, but actually put pen to paper and hand-write a note.  (Grab a business card so you have the correct spelling of the interviewer’s name and know where to mail it).  This shows class, professionalism, and attention to detail.
  2. Hold tight.  Leave them alone for AT LEAST 72 hours after they have received your “Thank You” note.  Similar to dating, you don’t want to seem desperate (even if you are!)
  3. About one week from the interview, place a phone call (if you have not heard anything).  If you’re able to speak to someone and they say something like, “we’re just not ready to make a decision yet.” That’s a polite way of saying, “Don’t call us.  We’ll call you.” You need to back off and continue exploring other options.  Who knows, maybe you’ll still be chosen for the job…  but you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
  4. Now, if after placing that initial call, you STILL don’t hear anything, limit your follow-through to once every 2-3 weeks).  If you call or email a hiring manager or recruiter every day, it is likely you will not be hired – you’ll seem obsessive. 
  5. If after a month or two you still have not heard anything, you may need to come to the realization that you’re beating a dead horse.  I would suggest you move on, but that’s up to you.  Keep in mind, if you have applied at a temporary staffing agency – where job openings change constantly – the routine outlined above may not be applicable.  In the world of temporary employment, you should stay in contact every week to let your recruiter know that you’re available for any specific shifts or types of positions.  You never know what might pop up!

Hey Readers, do you agree with this advice?
Has your follow-up helped or hurt you in the past?

-Anita

Overworked

A reader writes…

I’ve suddenly been given a lot of new responsibilities at work, and I’m feeling stressed.  What’s the difference between being “overworked” versus simply “rising to the challenge?”

Dear “Frazzle-Dazzle,”

If I understand your situation correctly, you’re feeling “frazzled” as you try to “razzle-dazzle” your boss by accomplishing the new responsibilities (and challenges) that have been set forth, correct?

Since everyone’s tolerance for stress is different, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what you’re going through, but here are a few clues that tell you if you’re being overworked:

  • If your workload is affecting you emotionally, chances are, you’re overworked.  Nuts and bolts… do you feel like you’re drowning? Are you having anxiety attacks about your job? Do you feel completely stressed about what you’re currently doing and what you are expected to be doing?
  • If your workload is making you work overtime or after hours (in order to stay on top of things) – then you’re likely overworked and on the brink of  burnout.
  • If your job is resulting in so much stress that you’re losing sleep, this, too, is a red flag.

Being overworked has some serious consequences… especially when it comes to your health. Signs may include high blood pressure, a low immune system, migraines, depression…  the list can go on and on!

Here are a few things you can do to take action:

  1. Determine whether or not this feeling of “burnout” is temporary.  We all know that sometimes you just have to dive in, and get the job done… whether it means burning the midnight oil or not.   On the other hand, if this is an ongoing feeling (with no light at the end of the tunnel) then something’s gotta give.
  2. If working under pressure and high stress is not for you, it’s probably time you speak with your supervisor and reevaluate the workload.
  3. If your boss seems indifferent about your concerns and doesn’t offer any type of support, see if your company has an employee assistance program (EAP) where you may be able to (confidentially) seek help such as therapy or counseling.
  4. Most importantly, I think you should ask yourself, “Is this even WORTH it?” You may be faced with potential health risks and physical dangers as a result of stress on the job.  Are you sure you’re in a good place?

Anybody have a similar situation? Please share your story and any additional suggestions!

A Quick Update…

Hello Beloved Readers,

I can’t believe that I’ve only been blogging for a little over a month and already have over 2,000 subscribers reading my posts! I am sincerely touched and thank you for your faithful readership and your many comments and questions. As much as I hope my words of advice can help you, it’s your comments and questions that make “Job Talk” worth visiting over and over.

In my first 30+ days, I wanted to build a library of topics for you all to browse, so I made daily posts. And boy, does my brain hurt!

I have many more topics to cover, but I also want to make sure I have time to respond to each and every one of you, and I want to make sure you don’t get sick of seeing my name show up in your email.

So… I am going to slow down the pace a little and start posting topics on the home page of my blog once a week – on Tuesday mornings. 

I hope you’re finding my advice helpful – I just love and appreciate hearing from you, so please continue to keep the questions coming!

Thanks again for taking time out of your day to read what I have to say!

Warm Regards,
-Anita

New Unemployment Benefits Law

A reader writes…

Anita, will you please provide some information regarding the new unemployment benefits law? Any restrictions or rules we should be aware of?

Dear “Unemployed,”

On December 17, 2010, Congress passed a Federal law that extends unemployment benefits for another 13 months!

What does this mean to those of you who are unemployed?
Eligible unemployed workers will have MORE TIME to collect maximum benefits while continuing to search for a new job.

Below is some information that I pulled from the EDD website. Though the EDD (Employment Development Department) is a California state agency, they include some helpful information regarding the recent federal legislation.  Take a peek…

NEW FILING DEADLINES FOR FEDERAL EXTENSION BENEFITS

For more than two years, an unprecedented offering of federal unemployment extension benefits has provided additional financial support to unemployed workers hit hard in this long, harsh recession. In addition to the up to 26 weeks of regular UI benefits offered any time an eligible worker becomes unemployed, up to 73 weeks of additional benefits have been available through four different tiers of extension benefits and a separate extension of benefits known as the FED-ED extension. All together, up to 99 weeks of unemployment benefits have been available to help support unemployed workers, their families, and their communities.

Here is a breakdown of the new filing deadlines for federal extension benefits now that the program has been extended for another 13 months:

CURRENT UI EXTENDED BENEFIT DURATION & CLAIM DEADLINES

UI Benefits Provided During This Recession
UI Claims Maximum Weeks of Benefits Provided Deadline for Starting This Type of UI Claim
Regular UI Claim Up to 26 weeks of benefits Once someone becomes unemployed
1st Tier of Federal Extension Up to 20 weeks of benefits December 25, 2011
2nd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 14 weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
3rd Tier of Federal Extension Up to 13 weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
4th Tier of Federal Extension Up to 6 weeks of benefits January 1, 2012
Separate FED-ED Extension Up to 20 weeks of benefits January 8, 2012
POTENTIAL TOTAL MAXIMUM BENEFITS Up to 99 weeks of benefits  

No impact for customers who have run out of maximum benefits

The federal legislation enacted on December 17, 2010 does not include any additional weeks of extended benefits, so the maximum total remains up to 99 weeks of benefits.

Unemployed individuals may be eligible for assistance to meet basic needs as well as other services such as health care, counseling, employment, and training assistance.

Impact on Federal Stimulus Payments

If you are a claimant who qualified for the $25 stimulus payments, current federal law states the last week these stimulus payments can be made is the week ending December 11, 2010. Claimants who filed a new regular UI claim effective May 30, 2010 or after do not qualify for the $25 stimulus payments.

Who qualifies for unemployment?
Click:  United States Department of Labor  for specific details regarding eligibility, how to file a claim, what disqualifies a person, benefits, and more.

Hope you find this information helpful!

-Anita

Job Placements

Valued Readers,

I have been receiving a number of comments asking about specific job placements — not necessarily asking for advice on “how to…” but rather “will you hire me?” 

While I’d love to find a specific job for each and every one of you, I am not a recruiter or placement specialist from an agency.  My expertise is in providing work-related advice. Whether you’re a job seeker looking for resume / interview tips, a current employee in need of some “words of wisdom,” or even a current manager who simply needs someone to turn to – I’m your gal!

For those of you looking to be placed in a job, I highly recommend that you visit the website of my favorite staffing service, Select Staffing (www.selectstaffing.com).  With offices nationwide and a variety of specialty divisions, the folks at Select have strong connections with some of the nation’s leading businesses.  From light industrial, clerical, administrative, technical, accounting… they are experts at assessing your skills, experience, and availability and then matching you with short- or long-term positions.

In the meantime, I’m here for you, should you need any tips, suggestions, or advice along the way!

Happy Hunting!
-Anita

Lost Job Due to Family Emergency

A reader writes…

I recently lost my job due to a family emergency, I tried to tell my employer what was going on and they said if I didn’t go into work then it would be a “no call no show.” To be honest, it would have been impossible for me to get to work that day.

They told me I was fired and then the next day they called me and asked my why I didn’t go in that day as well.  I told them they fired me the day before so they got me for 2 “no call no shows!”

 I was very confused. I have 4 children and a wife and I have been looking everywhere and no luck, any suggestions?

Dear “Emergency Absence,”

This sounds like a very unfortunate situation, and I am sorry to hear it is happening to you.  From your story, my first impression is that your employer is being unreasonable and lacking internal communication.  Was the person who called you the next day the same person you spoke to initially?  Sounds like a complete miscommunication and misunderstanding.  No wonder you’re confused!

It’s true that several businesses maintain a strict “no call no show” policy, but in your case, it sounds like you DID call.  You state that you “tried to tell (your) employer what was going on,” but did you actually speak to someone?  

From my experience, all employees are entitled to reasonable time off to deal with emergency situations (particularly involving a dependant).  Now, this could mean UNPAID time off, but in many cases, your job is still protected.  It’s tough for me to know your situation or what the “family emergency” entailed.  If you needed to attend a wedding and decided you could not make it into work… that’s probably not going to fly.  But if a child, spouse, or someone you are responsible for needed urgent medical assistance (for example)… that typically constitutes an excused absence.  Every company is different, and it sounds like you’re moving on.

You may have seen me suggest temporary staffing in some of my previous posts, but it’s the first thought that comes to mind for your immediate needs as well.  With a family to support, you need a quick fix, even if it’s short term while searching for a full-time position.  Staffing services such as Select Staffing often have temp-to-hire positions available as well (in a wide variety of industries).
Take a look at www.selectstaffing.com.

Now, keep in mind, you will be required to provide at least 2 employment references.  Given the not-so-positive end to your last job, you may need to drum up some alternative references and clearly explain the unfair situation that you shared with me.  Otherwise, you may be able to utilize another contact from your previous employer (not involved with your termination) but who can vouch for your work ethic, etc.

Readers… anyone else encounter a similar situation?

-Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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