There is no question that cost-cutting and redundancies have been more detrimental to senior staff than junior-level bankers. Not only are they an easier target – due to their high price tag – but it’s also more difficult for experienced bankers to find new work. With fewer senior-level jobs available, many have begun applying and interviewing for more junior roles. Needless to say, scoring a job with “too much experience” is a tough task.
Last month, we offered some philosophical tips on how to combat ageism – an all-too-real phenomenon on Wall Street and in most every other sector. To follow up, we wanted to offer some more concrete tips on how to go about the job search when you’re overqualified – from networking to resume writing to the critical interviews.
The Prep Work
Know the Truth: “The sad truth is that ageism exists and more experienced candidates have it harder,” said Peter Laughter, CEO of Wall Street Services. Senior-level candidates need to recognize this and respond accordingly. Those with more experience should know that they are more likely to get ruled out when responding to job postings, Laughter said. Instead, concentrate your efforts on networking and working with recruiters who can represent you, not your age.
Tighten Your Resume: No matter how you are introduced to a hiring manager, your resume is still your foot in the door. Keep it fresh and concise, said Tom Moran, chief executive officer of search firm Addison Group. “It may behoove you to only include pertinent, more recent experience on your resume, and to denote that any other information can be available upon request,” he said.
Refocus Your Resume: When applying for roles below your level of experience, tailor your resume to give yourself the best chance to earn a face-to-face meeting. “De-emphasize the magnitude of the organizations you've led, and instead focus on what you've delivered, why the business liked you, and that you were a good team player - so you don't come across as overkill for the position,” said Anne Crowley, managing director at Jay Gaines and Company.
Network, Network, Network: As a senior-level candidate, you have a unique advantage: decades worth of relationships. Don't be bashful about asking for recommendations, references, or an introduction, said Moran – something senior people are often reticent to do when eyeing a position down the ladder. “Senior people have generally done a lot of career counseling and helping of others, so now is a good time to get a return on that good karma investment,” said Crowley.
Sharpen Your Skills: One of the common fears of hiring someone below their normal pay grade – other than them walking away for another job – is their lack of recent work in the trenches. This can be overcome, in part, by adding new, relevant skills that junior candidates are more likely to own.
If getting in front of hiring managers with “too much experience” is tough, nailing the interview and getting the job is downright difficult. Keep these tips in mind.
Focus on the Job: When presenting your background, target skills and experiences that are applicable to the job you are interviewing for, not the one you just left, said Laughter. This should help keep doubts and fears from entering the mind of the hiring manager.
Express Your Interest: The first thing any manager will think when eyeing the resume of a senior person is: “why do they want this job?” Be prepared with specific answers. “Emphasize your interest in getting into the right company, and articulate what appeals to you about this company,” Crowley said. “Be clear that you fully understand there is a job at hand that needs to be done and you aren't just looking for your next promotion.”
Focus on the Positives: Remember, junior roles pay less for a reason – maybe less travel or reduced management responsibilities, said Crowley. "Sometimes there is an appeal to being an individual contributor vs. having responsibility for a large team,” she said. However, be sure to communicate that you don’t fear long hours or difficult tasks, only that you are open to a new type of role.
Remain Positive: The easiest way to flop during any interview is a poor attitude. If you come in with a “woe is me” outlook, you’ll have no chance. Be excited to be there and interviewing for that job.
Not a Stepping Stone: As mentioned earlier, the biggest fear of hiring managers regarding experienced candidates is that they may jump as soon as a more senior role becomes available. While admittedly this is a tough preconceived notion to combat, one good way is by focusing on the longevity of your career, said Crowley. Point to the number of years you spent at past employers and how you have never been one to jump around.
Be Sincere: People understand the current climate on Wall Street and in the City. You don’t need to create a story around why you’re on the street. Know you are not alone.
Concentrate on the Positives: The best strategy for nailing an interview is by presenting your breadth of experience as a positive. Inquire about specific problems that the group is dealing with and how you can assist.