Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Over/Under Qualified Candidates

ERE.net has a good post about what to do with overqualified candidates who apply for positions. This is a fairly unique phenomenon to recessionary periods. The article is written from the perspective of the corporate recruiter and hiring manager, but it got me thinking about it from the candidate's perspectives for both over and under-qualified candidates.

Candidates
When you are unemployed and actively looking for a job, there is a strong inclination to apply to any job that is close to being a fit, no matter what a stretch it is (in either direction). The thinking goes, "I have nothing to lose!" That is absolutely true in one sense, but needs to be considered in the appropriate context.

Generally, if you are over or under-qualified for a job in this economic climate, you are not going to get it. I hate to say it, but with so many people available, companies can choose to be picky. Blasting your resume to everything hoping that something will stick is not going to do you any favors. Obviously, this is pretty common advice, but if you read through the archives, my advice holds true especially in this circumstance.

If you are on either end of the qualification spectrum rather than being a perfect fit, prefacing your resume with a call is vitally important. The old adage that HR spends no more than 30-60 seconds on a resume will doom you if you aren't a perfect fit.* What you are hoping for in applying for positions that are not a perfect fit is either 1) Somebody will see my resume and think of me for another, unadvertised position, or 2) Somebody will see my resume and think "You know, this person isn't quite what we were looking for, but they might be better for the position anyway."

*I'm stealing a "Pozterisk" here from Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite baseball bloggers. Remember that for HR and sometimes hiring manager, a perfect fit means that you are currently or most recently in the same role as the one to which you are applying as well as meeting the education and experience requirements. If you are applying to a Cost Accountant position, but your last job was "G/L Accountant," you may very well be able to do a cost accountant position, but you are not a perfect fit. You MUST explain this.

First, you need to make it entirely clear to the prospective employer that you understand that you are either over or under-qualified for the position at hand. You have to decide whether you are taking tack 1 or 2 from above. Finally, call the hiring manager and introduce yourself with something along the lines of:
"Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I saw you were looking to hire a Jr. Software Engineer. I have 10 years of Embedded C development in aerospace which probably doesn't make me the right fit for that opening, but I wanted to introduce myself to you anyway to see if you had any current or upcoming needs for somebody at my experience level."
If you are taking tack 2, your script might be something like:
"Hello, my name is Jane Smith. I saw you were looking to hire a Jr. Software Engineer. I have 10 years of Embedded C development in aerospace. I realize that this is more experience than you call for in your job description, so I wanted to introduce myself to you and get a better idea of your needs and we can see if my experience might still be a good fit."
As in the previous post about not sending a resume, your goal is first and foremost to give your resume the highest chance of being reviewed at all. Since you know that you are either over or under-qualified for the position (for the sake of this discussion), taking this approach will also give your resume a better chance of being reviewed in the right context. So the resume reviewer won't say "why did this person send a resume, they are clearly over-qualified," but rather "Oh, this person said they were over-qualified, let's just have a look because they left such a nice voicemail." Obviously we prefer to get people on the phone, but a voicemail followed by an e-mail often has the same effect as far as your resume is concerned.

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