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Techniques for turning on employers when you are massively overqualified

There’s a growing possibility that a lot of very talented, very highly qualified financial services professionals might be looking for jobs in the next 6 months.

What should you do if you are among them?

1) Make it absolutely clear that you really want the job

If you are applying for a job you could have done five years’ previously, you must make it absolutely clear that you are aware of this, that it is not an issue and that you will not leave as soon as something better comes up.

“You need to clearly mitigate any doubts an employer might have,” says Rob Yeung, a director at business consultancy Talentspace. “You need to put out a sort of press release providing the reasons why you’re pursuing this particular job rather than the job your career track might suggest you should be applying for.”

This could be a personal statement at the top of your CV or it could be a covering letter, but it needs to be well thought through.

“Before you’ve even applied for a job for which you’re overqualified, you need to sit down and think through why you want it,” says Janet Moran, managing director of consultancy The CV House. “What will interest you about it – rather than just getting the pay check at the end of the month?”

2) Talk about your children and your technical prowess

Acceptable reasons for wanting a job that’s less exciting than anything you’ve done recently include: ‘work/life balance,’ or, ‘just loving the technical aspects of the role.’

“We saw someone who’d been managing a very large high-powered team and wanted a less demanding role at a smaller company,” says Kate Grussing, founder of recruitment firm Sapphire Partners, which places senior people into flexible roles. “He convinced them to take him on because he was honest: he hadn’t seen his kids properly for five years and felt he’d missed them growing up.”

Saying you’re technically amazing and would prefer to be a doer than a manager also works when you’re trying for a job you could do with your eyes closed.

“Employers will want to see that you’ve demonstrated the technical skills to do the job and that you can apply those skills to the role immediately,” says Moran. “You need to show that you are very accomplished at what you do and that you absolutely want to go on doing that in a different economic environment.”

3) Go for a ‘skills-based’ CV

Yeung suggests that rather than the standard reverse chronological CV starting with the acme of your career achievements and then working backwards to how you got there, you might want to try a CV structured around your skills.

“On the first page, list between three and six skills that you think are relevant to that job and highlight how you’ve demonstrated them in the past,” says Yeung. “On the second page, you can list all your experience, briefly.”

4) Don’t write one of those CVs which emphasizes how wonderful you are

There’s a tendency, when writing a CV, to use it as a sales device emphasizing your achievements. Tone this down.

“The typical tendency is to absolutely maximize everything you’ve done because you’re looking for something better,” says Moran. “But when you’re overqualified you need to approach the CV with a different mindset. Rather than stretching what you’ve done previously, emphasise your absolute preparedness and ability to do this job from the outset.”

5) Practice submissive body language

People will not want to employ you if you have been more important than them and appear determined to remember that. Try to be a little bit submissive: do not shake hands with excessive vigour; smile a lot; leave your hands facing up, look at the floor occasionally, although though not so much that you appear subdued or interested in the carpet.

6) Conceal all desperation

If you exude an odour of desperation you will get nowhere.

“You need to make it absolutely clear that you’re signed up to do this role and are actively seeking it, rather than that you’ve scratched around and it’s the only thing you can find,” says Moran.

Comments (18)

  1. Practice submissive body language?!

    I’d rather be unemployed, thank you very much! I’d rather commit suicide! Ever heard of the word HONOUR? No, you haven’t, have you?

  2. XXX, there’s nothing dishonourable about putting food on the table. It also sets a good example for the dyfunctional youth in the UK who think they are too good for ‘low-status’ work.

  3. @ XXX. That’s not honour, that’s pride.

    Tony Romo’s Dad Reply
  4. Sensible article after a long time from Sarah. I think you should write only occasionally for such consistency.

    overeducatedunderqualified Reply
  5. In this very over populated job seeking market utilising one apporach over another to obtain a position just makes good sense.

    However, I suspect that most unemployed, especially those that have been so for a longer period, are happy to get any role and a regular paycheck.

    The harder hurdle to cross is ‘age’. In a flooded market being over 50 is a death knell – regardless of how good or suited you may be for the role.

  6. Overqualified, underqualified… makes no difference.

    With the current hysterical levels of islamophobia, try being a bearded Muslim man or scarf wearing woman. Impossible.

    And please leave out the platitudes about Equalities policies and diverse workforces… it isn’t the reality.

  7. Ridiculous!

    This is a masochistic recipe for depression. Do something different at your current level or start your own thing. I’d rather own and run a succesful cornershop than do a job I could have done five years ago.

    Sarah, would you step back and do what you did before you joined efinancialcareers five years ago (not sure what it was)? Please explain what that was and how you would go about doing that.

    Article sorely lacking credibility

  8. @SubmissiveOne

    The “dyfunctional” youth in UK do not work in finance, PE or consulting.

    Am impressed by your ability to connect the dots between irrelevant tangential issues

    NonSubmissiveOne Reply
  9. XXX, gosh you sound masterful. I like role playing a slave and am looking for a master – how can I contact you? Perhaps, Sarah can launch a seperate section of the website for Personal, “job-seekers with benefits”, “casual (employment) encounters”, or something?

  10. What a load of rubbish! Sorry but its probably time to get out of banking and out of the City. Who wants to work for these people anyway!

  11. @Jen – if you’re a fit bird, I’m definitely up for it.

  12. 7) have the right message about money – it seems obvious but don’t overprice yourself. If you are hearing “sorry but you are overqualified” people might actually mean “sorry but you are too expensive”.

    There are way too many people in this industry who assume it is their right to get a six figure package. There are also lots of people out there who get the massive hump if they perceive that someone is paying more for the same skillset.

    Don’t be or behave like one of these people.

    iseethiseveryday Reply
  13. Sarah,

    I like your article and the way you suggested to tackle the situation. People generally commenting above haven’t ever faced joblessness, otherwise the advices presented seems very practical and useful. Thank you for such a nice paper.

  14. Some of you need to read the article. Sarah is providing advice if you have to or decided to go for a role which you are possibly over qualified for. For some people there maybe a necessity. It always seemed easier to get a job if you have one rather than be part of the unemployed. Take a step back to go forward again ..I did ..haven’t looked back.

  15. Submissive Behaviour: There is a difference between pride and honour. Submissive behavior is simply saying; Be humble. The gist is, if you are overqualified for a role, you won’t get hired if you go in acting like you’re too big for the role.

  16. XXX, what if I’m an overweight balding middle aged man, would it be a not starter? Try and imagine a cross between Max Mosley, Les Dawson and Julian Cleary. Any interest?

  17. > Make it absolutely clear that you really want the job
    Tattoo it on your wrist…

    > leave your hands facing up
    …and make it visible when in the interview

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