"I went in for the interview, and followed up a week later, and the person said I was too qualified," Paul said. "They were looking at me as if I'm gonna leave as soon as I can get a better job. And in all honesty, that's what I would have done."
Paul, 37, was one of hundreds of unemployed workers at a jobs fair in the nation's capital recently. Like many others, Paul has found that his rich experience is a hindrance as prospective employers deem him to be overqualified.
Paul, who has worked almost continuously in construction since he was 17, was laid off as a construction manager in
"I don't need part-time work. I need full-time work," he said.
Workers with years of experience, a master's degree or doctorate, or coming from a relatively high position or salary face a perverse situation: The characteristics that made them hirable in good times can be a hindrance when competition is fierce for positions at all levels, and workers such as Paul are finding that employers are wary of taking a chance on those who may quit as soon as the economy improves.
But Paul isn't giving up. He has sent out almost 300 resumes in the last few months. And he has crafted a toned-down version to avoid appearing overqualified, he said.
"I reformatted my resume to bring it down, just to get my foot in the door and try to get entry-level," Paul said. "Even if I have to start at the entry level, I don't mind."
With about 6.1 unemployed workers for each job
opening, competition is intense. U.S. nonfarm payrolls declined for the
25th time in the past 26 months, falling by 36,000 in February to 129.5
As the downturn continues to crush some industries, job seekers understandably are struggling. If you're under-qualified for a job or looking to enter a new industry, the advice is pretty obvious: get training or experience. But what do you do when you're overqualified?
For starters, workers may want to follow Paul's lead and craft a resume that doesn't scream: "I'm going to leave an entry-level job as soon as possible."
"Emphasize things in your resume that would be
appropriate for a particular job. If you are taking a step down, and
it's, for example, for a customer-service-related job, then emphasize
your customer experience," said
Older workers are familiar with the double-edged sword of experience.
"It's important for older job seekers to really market themselves, to demonstrate that they are the right fit for the employer," Russell said. "The emphasis should be not only on how you are you the right fit, but what do you have to offer to make the company successful." Listen to Radio Report on how not to sell yourself short on the job hunt.
Older workers can also emphasize their smaller turnover risk. According to an
When networking, candidates who feel overqualified should be enthusiastic about job opportunities.
"They need to make it clear to their network that they are not only willing to take a step down, but for some compelling reason they are excited about this new opportunity," Holmes said. "If they say they are settling, that's not enough."
Also, don't treat a step-down job like it's a step down. Be excited about the new position in an interview, Holmes suggested. A good way to be excited about a job that's a few rungs down the career ladder is to enter a field in which you are genuinely interested. For example, if you are a laid-off banker who happens to love dogs, consider trying to get a numbers job at a doggy day-care center.
"Everybody has a passion like that," Holmes said. "It could be reading, so go work in a bookstore. It's much easier to convey passion in an interview if it is something you have passion for."
Companies that consider job applicants who appear overqualified may use caution. Sonoco, a
"Certainly we want the best-qualified individuals for a job. We are more than willing to speak with someone with good qualifications," Schrum said. "Job hoppers, and in some cases career hoppers, may not fit well within our culture."
Workers who feel they are stepping down need to overcome feelings of frustration or disappointment, tough as that might be.
"If you walk in every day feeling that you are overqualified you will be miserable, and it will leak out all over the place. You really need to give it your all," Holmes said. "When I was younger and working and was asked to get a cup of coffee, I would not be insulted. I would go and get the best cup of coffee he's ever had."
"Initially you don't want to sell yourself short, but at the end of the day I need to be able to maintain our household," Ellis said. "Sometimes you have to take a couple of steps backward to take a step forward. I have to persevere. It's not just about me, it's about my family."
She noted that there are benefits to taking a job, such as executive assistant, that is under her skill level: she'll be so proficient at her work that she may have time to pursue other opportunities.
"I could go to school again part-time, and do other goals," Ellis said.
Source: McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.