Overqualified?

Dear RSL,

I’ve applied for multiple jobs and keep being told that I’m “over-qualified” for the position.  I know I have the skills
needed and would do a great job and isn’t someone who has experience doing the same thing preferred?  What does “over-qualified” really mean?

Wow…first day back from vacation and you hit me with a good one!  Being considered “over-qualified” for a position can mean an array of different things.  A lot of it depends on what industry, type of job, etc.  Start by looking at the job description.  After reading the job description and matching it up to what you’ve done and where you currently are at in your career, how does it match up?  Would the position be a lateral move for you, a step back or a step up on the career ladder?  Most likely if you’re being told that you’re over qualified, it would be seen as a step back.

Why are you applying for positions that are a step backwards in your career versus a step up?  Are you not receiving feedback for positions that require experience more in line with where you are at in your career?  Perhaps
it’s time to talk with a resume writer or invest in a resume writing seminar.  Chances are; there is nothing in your resume that is catching the eye of the recruiting and/or hiring manager to make them want to jump at the chance to talk to you.  Are you customizing your resume and cover letter for each specific position?  Are you making sure that keywords and phrases used in the job description show up in your resume?  This is something simple you can do now that will make a huge difference to your future applications.

Getting back to over-qualified and how recruiters use it in communicating with their candidates.  Most times when a recruiter lets a candidate know they’re over qualified, it’s because the position would be a step back.  Even if a  candidate says they’re willing to take a step back it’s still considered a “risky” hire.  Why?  Because past hires have shown that hiring someone that’s overqualified often leads to an employee that’s unhappy in their job, bored and unchallenged.  Most companies are looking for those employees that are looking to continually improve their skills; which in most cases entails moving up within their profession or chosen career path.

If you’re being told why you’re not being hired, use this information to your advantage.  Update your resume.  Start looking for positions that are a better fit for your skill set.  Don’t give up, just tweak your search.

Are you overqualified for the positions you’re applying for?

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/billye

SOLVE THE RIDDLE: TRANSLATING A POSITION DESCRIPTION INTO SUCCESS

So you’ve printed out your resume, highlighted key phrases, and written some great questions for each
of the central bullet points. Now we need to take a deeper dive into the position description – section
by section.

The company description section of the position description is a great place to hunt for the values and
hints about the corporate culture. Remember that much time and energy has been put into mission
and vision statements and this is a big clue on how the company wants to be perceived. Think about
the difference between “customer-focused” and “results-driven” in the mission statement. Most
importantly – this changes the lens by which you will create your cover letter and what you will want to
convey during the interview.

The position overview will provide some details about reporting structure and general responsibilities.
One of the biggest flaws I see in position descriptions occurs in this section – it is often quite difficult to
determine what the actual day-to-day responsibilities are. The verbs, or action words, that are used will
provide some additional context. What’s the difference between “direct” and “oversee”? If you need to
pull out the dictionary and look the words up – there are subtle differences that may have some impact
on how you portray yourself.

Human Resources and the employment relationship reflect one of the fastest growing areas of litigation
in the United States today. And with that comes something most HR folks dread – compliance. If a
company has government contracts, they are required to follow OFCCP. Aside from sounding scary,
this alphabet soup has a big impact on your job search. If a company uses the phrase “minimum
qualifications” in the requirements section this means that they are truly minimum qualifications. The
HR representative is not allowed to consider you for the position unless you have these qualifications.
Do not waste your time on applying for positions that you only have 3 out of 5 the minimum
qualifications.

The additional requirements section is where recruiters puts the “nice to have” elements of a job. If
you have many of these skills and abilities, you have an increased chance to landing the position. You
will also notice that many of the “soft skills” of the positions are mentioned here. Be sure to use those
themes in your cover letter, resume, and for your interview preparation. Here’s one way to think
about it: If the company says they are “customer-focused” you will want to prepare an example story
to demonstrate of when you delivered exceptional customer service. Also, sometimes you will see
a requirement such as “must come to work on time and be ready to contribute” – which sticks out a
little bit or doesn’t have the same voice as the other parts of the description. This may be a clue that
the person in the role before you had problems with punctuality or brought problems at home into the
workplace. In these cases, be sure to highlight your punctuality throughout the hiring process.

In summary, use the key words and phrases used in the position description when you are tailoring your
cover letter, resume, and through the interviewing process. Pay particular attention to the verbs being
used. Make sure that when preparing for your interview that you are able to highlight examples in your
work history that reflect not only the tasks/skills of the position, but also the values of the organization.

And finally, remember to use the 5 W’s: who, what, where, when, and why to be able to ask exceptional
questions during the interview. Good luck!


Angela Harris has a 15 year career in human resources, with several years in management consulting and quality. She current works at ASQ, the American Society for Quality, where she works on the development of ISO standards.  In addition to working at ASQ, Angela owns a consulting practice (ASHconsulting), is a Wisconsin Forward Award Examiner, sits on the SHRM Task Force for Metrics & Measures, is on the Board of Directors for the Wheaton Franciscan Foundation for St. Francis & Franklin, and was Executive Director of Milwaukee JobCamps.  She received her M.S. in Human Resources from Marquette University.

Feel free to connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/billye

SOLVE THE RIDDLE: HOW TO READ AND ANALYZE POSITION DESCRIPTIONS

When I work with my job-seeking clients, one of the first skills I teach them is how to read and analyze a position
description.  This is a critical skill that all job seekers must learn.  Once you get the hang of it you will realize it is fun – like solving a riddle.  Think about it this way:  does your resume convey everything there is to know about you and your experience?  Of course not!!  The position description serves the same purpose:  it provides the starting point for a very important conversation.

There are many benefits to learning how to read a position description.  You will:

  • Only apply to those positions you are actually qualified for – saving time and effort
  • Save your reputation with recruiters by not applying to things you aren’t qualified for
  • Be able to better tailor your cover letter and resume
  • Discover what made your predecessor successful (or not!)
  • Be well-prepared for an interview
  • Be able to better guessimate the compensation range for the position

So with all those benefits, I know you are ready to take the first step.

STEP #1:  PRINT OUT THE DESCRIPTION

After a quick scan and interest, print out the position description.  This is not a time to worry about trees – most descriptions will be 2-3 pages and the investment you make here is well worth it.  Once you have a job – feel free to make a donation to your favorite environmentally-friendly group.  I have found that I can read more easily on paper versus the computer screen.

STEP #2:  ACTUALLY READ THE POSITION DESCRIPTION

I mean actually READ it.  Not skimming.  Not scanning.  Not reacting.  Read the document for COMPREHENSION.
Pay particular attention to the verbs being used in the general responsibilities section.  The verbs not only give you a clue to actual tasks, but also to the level of responsibility of the position.  For example:  there’s a big difference between “Manage multiple communications projects…” and “Deliver web-based content by target deadlines.”

STEP #3:  HIGHLIGHT THE KEY WORDS

Get out your favorite color highlighter and find the 5 or 6 phrases or sentences that seem to be central to the position.  Use a different color to highlight industry jargon, certifications, or buzz words. You should use these exact key words in your cover letter and resume.  For example:  if the position description says “Must be proficient in Microsoft Office” write “Microsoft Office” – if it says “Word, Excel, and PowerPoint,” write the same.  This will ensure that when a recruiter runs “Google-like” searches in an applicant database, your resume will come to the top.

STEP #4:  WRITE QUESTIONS ON THE DESCRIPTION

In the above example, I would want to know WHO I am managing, HOW many projects, and WHAT type of communications they are referring to.  Back in high school, I remember learning the 5 W’s – who, what, where,
when,
and why.  And let’s go ahead and add the how too.  You should have questions for all of the key bullets on the description.  Writing these questions down will have many benefits for the interview process, particularly with the hiring manager.   First, having this completed will show that you took the time to read and understand the role.  Opening the interview with, “I read the position description and I have some questions I really would like to ask you…” allows the interview to become less Q&A style and more like a conversation – which is better for everyone.

In a follow-up blog, I will show you how to look at each of the key sections of a position description and how to use that information to land your next job!


Angela Harris has a 15 year career in human resources, with several years in management consulting and quality. She current works at ASQ, the American Society for Quality, where she works on the development of ISO standards.  In addition to working at ASQ, Angela owns a consulting practice (ASHconsulting), is a Wisconsin Forward Award Examiner, sits on the SHRM Task Force for Metrics & Measures, is on the Board of Directors for the Wheaton Franciscan Foundation for St. Francis & Franklin, and was Executive Director of Milwaukee JobCamps.  She received her M.S. in Human Resources from Marquette University.

Feel free to connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn:   http://www.linkedin.com/in/billye

New College Graduate Does Not Equal No Experience

Dear RSL,

I just graduated college and I’m looking for my first “real” job.  My problem is I don’t have a lot of work
experience and I think I’m continuing to get passed over in favor of people with experience.  What can I do?

Congratulations on completing your degree!  I’m sure it hasn’t been an easy road but you’re done, completed and now it’s time to find your place in the world and start your career.  What type of positions have you applied to?  What type of internships and/or projects did you work on while completing your degree?

The first thing you need to do is focus on what type of position you are targeting.  I am going to assume that since you just graduated that you are targeting positions that are in your field of study.  What type of experience is being required in the positions that you are applying for?  Many new graduates have gone through internships and although they might not have been paid for this work, they can count that experience when calculating their overall years of experience.  The same can be said for projects that have been completed while in school, this experience can also be counted.

Between internships and classroom work/projects, most college graduates come away with 1-2 years of experience in their chosen field.  The types of positions that you are targeting will typically have an experience requirement of 0-2 years.  You’ll want to showcase this experience on your resume.  Make sure to include not only internships and class projects, but also any relevant groups/organizations or volunteer work that you’ve done that’s relevant to the position you are applying to.   Highlight your relevant experience to showcase the competencies that you’ve gained and how they relate to the position you are applying to.  And while you’re customizing your resume for each specific position, don’t forget to include a customized cover letter as well: http://resumesurvislady.com/2011/04/08/the-cover-letter-mystery/

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

 

Who Do I List As My References?

Dear RSL,

I am going to my second on site interview for a position I really want.  The company has asked me for a list of references.  Should I include personal references, peer references, managers or a combination?  What types of questions does a company ask a reference?

Great question!  A company asking for references is a good sign! When you are preparing your list of references, it’s always good to have a combination of people including at least two people who you have directly reported to as well as one or two peers.  There really is no need to add a personal reference unless it is an entry-level position or a first position.

To answer your next question as to what to types of questions a company asks references; that depends upon the company and what type of position you are applying for. Generally, the questions will revolve around work ethic, attendance, reason for leaving, ability to be rehired, etc.

Do you know what your references will say about you? Although my current position does not include conducting reference checks, I have conducted plenty of reference checks in my past.  What always amazed me is those candidates who give me a list of references and one or two people on their list give them a
terrible reference.   Have a conversation with them before adding them to your reference list.  Ask them what they are going to say about you.  Don’t just assume that they are going to give you a glowing reference.  If you’re not sure what they’re going to say when called by a potential employer, don’t include them on your reference list.

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com

Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady:

Twitter:  resumesurvisldy

LinkedIn: Resume Survis Lady or www.linkedin.com/in/billye

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

I’m Still 29… How Old Are You?

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I am an “older” professional that has been displaced and have found myself unexpectedly in the job market.  I am worried that my age is going to hinder my ability to get a job.  What do I do if they ask me how old I am?

Before I answer this question, let me just start with a disclaimer that I am not an attorney or am I an expert on employment law.   Now that I have that out of the way we can get back to the question.  First of all, it is illegal for an employer or potential employer to discriminate against
someone due to age.  A “Best Practice” for industries is to avoid any questions that could be construed as trying to determine the age of the candidate.  This can include questions such as “What year did you graduate?” or “When did you go to college?”  The job interview should be
focused on previous experience, job skills and future goals.

Best practices aside, I have heard stories from others in the job market that they have been asked during the course of an interview how old they are, so I’m not going to say that it’s never going to happen.  What I can tell you is that age discrimination can be extremely hard to prove and the burden of proof would fall on you to prove that discrimination existed.  What you will need to decide if asked a question that is perceived as trying to determine your age is: what is the intent the question is being asked with?  Are they trying to purposely use your age to
discriminate?  And if they are, are they a company that you would want to work for?  But you’re not asking how to determine if age discrimination occurred or how to prove age discrimination so I’ll leave that one for the labor lawyers.

Back to what you should do if you’re asked how old you are.  It’s really quite simple.  If someone asked me how old I was during an interview, I would reply, with a smile on my face: “I’m still 29, how old are you?”

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis. To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your
questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com Feel free to also connect with Resume Survis Lady through twitter:  resumesurvisldy her LinkedIn group: Resume Survis Lady and on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Resume-Survis-Lady/150368705033497

White Texting Is Like Hiding Your Vegetables….Huh????

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

I just read your post about adding keywords to your resume and I understand the concept.  What is your opinion on “white texting” within a resume?  Will that help me get noticed?

First of all, for those of you that don’t know what “white texting” is, it’s the practice of adding a bunch of keywords at the base of a resume and having the text be colored white so that the words are invisible to the naked eye but a computer will hit on them and pull back the resume during a keyword search.  Now as for if it will help you get noticed, it will but necessarily in a good way.

Have you ever heard a story about how someone’s child hid their veggies in a napkin or fed them to the dog because their parents told them
they had to eat them but they didn’t want to? Maybe you did this as a child? To avoid actually eating them they come up with a way to conceal the evidence so to speak to make it look like they ate them and appease their parents.  White texting is a little bit like that food hidden in a napkin.  It’s a dirty little secret way of trying to cover up experience that one might not actually have and make themselves look better to a potential employer.  When I pull back a resume and I cannot find the keywords or experience that I am looking for, the first thing I do is go to
the bottom of the resume and highlight it to see if there are any hidden words there.   9 times out of 10 the key words I was looking for can be found this way.   Are you getting the picture that I don’t like white texting?

When I come across a resume that contains white text, the first thing I do is scrutinize the resume.  If the keywords I’m looking for are not actually in the resume does this candidate even have the experience that I’m looking for?  Chances are they do not.  My next question as I’m looking through the resume is: “what else are they hiding or being dishonest about?”  Job seekers, if you have certain experience, put it in your resume, don’t hide it.  If you’ve taken the time to research what keywords are important and want to include them so your resume will get hits, find a way to incorporate them into your resume.  This could be in your objective, work experience, technology; adding them to any of these sections would work.  If you’re not sure how to do incorporate the keywords you’ve identified, consult a resume writer.  I happen to know a  good one.

Resume Survis Lady is written by Billye Survis.  To have your resume or job search questions answered by Resume Survis Lady, send your questions to: resumesurvislady@gmail.com or on twitter: resumesurvisldy or connect with her directly on LinkedIn:  www.linkedin.com/in/Billye

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