7th August 2017
Why do people get turned down for jobs they are over qualified for?
As we start to exit the current Oil and Gas recession and jobs start becoming available, I am seeing more and more people applying for jobs that are much lower than their most recent position.
This is common in any recession that has involved redundancies and downsizing as people need to work and a lot of people will take -any- job in order to put food on the table.
That leads to people applying for roles that they may have done previously in their careers: Master Mariners applying for Deck Officer roles, Crane Operators applying for Rigger roles, Chefs applying for Steward jobs, the list goes on.
It’s easy to understand why and if I was unemployed in a struggling market with few opportunities, I would be applying for any job that would have me. Hey, McDonalds would be seeing my CV. The way I see it, any job would be better than going down the Jobcentre and applying for JSA. I’m sure that most professionals I know feel the same; being out of work can make you feel, for lack of a better word, useless.
So if this is a common feeling, what’s the problem with applying for a lower level job?
Jobs are forever, not just for Christmas
The thing to remember here is that a company’s requirement to operate efficiently is as important as a person’s need to earn money (if not more so). When you take into consideration the cost of advertising, recruiting, interviewing, training and the hours that go into making all that happen, every hire made by a company costs a lot of money. Therefore, every hire needs to be made with the hope or expectation that the person will remain at the company until their retirement. Of course this rarely happens in practice, but even less so when someone applies for a position lower than their previous position. The view will commonly be that the person is applying because there aren’t any jobs at their current level and they will be constantly looking for an opportunity to return to that level. They are unfortunately a ticking time-bomb of resignation.
“A boat doesn’t go forward if each one is rowing their own way”
This is an old Swahili proverb about teamwork and how, on any ship, it is vital that all people follow the Captain’s and the senior team’s wishes, however this could be replicated in any place of work. What’s the relevance? When you have worked at a particular level, you gain experience of how things should be done as well as a certain level of autonomy. It is natural to find it hard to step down and take someone else’s instruction, especially if you think you can do it a better way. I have worked in management for almost four years and as much as I know I can do a consultant’s job, I am very outspoken and would find it very hard not to try and lead.
People only step down because they can’t do the job
This is a terrible misconception that is unfortunately steeped in logic. There have been many occasions where I’ve come across someone looking to join a company in a lower position for “normal reasons”, yet when I’ve looked into their employment history I’ve discovered that they’ve had issues where they’ve been unable to manage people or they haven’t handled the responsibility well. Sadly people tend not to be entirely honest in their application, and normally give their reason for leaving as “personal problems” or “change of direction”, then when the reference is taken and the real reason discovered, the applicant comes across as dishonest. This has created a perception that all careers must show an incline in position over the years; this is not true but you need to be honest why you are taking the demotion.
There aren’t any jobs at my level; does that mean I’m stuck?
This article is not to tell people that it is impossible to apply for jobs lower than their previous role, but there are some things to note that will make your chances easier:
Apply to companies individually
This is the biggest piece of advice I can give. The internet is a great thing and connects so many of us easily and instantly. However it has taken away the personal touch. I have spoken to many people who claim that they have applied for “hundreds” of jobs this week, when they mean that they have sent their CV to “hundreds” of email addresses. Each job has its own nuances and specifications, so you should take the time to adapt your CV or write a cover letter specifically for that job. It’s personal and you are able to use that to pre-empt any concerns the recruiter may have.
Reconsider why you are applying
“Because I need a job” is not a good reason. In fact, it’s one of the worst. Companies want people to want to work for them, not need to. I was a Director before I ‘stepped down’ to Lead Consultant at Navis Consulting, but I did it because I respected Navis Consulting’s way of working and there was an opportunity to build something in a company with a great reputation. Use your individual cover letter to explain why you’re stepping down and why this particular company is the right one for you.
Be self-aware and address potential concerns
“What is your biggest weakness?” is one of the most common interview questions and is commonly answered poorly. The design of it is not to catch people out but test their level of self-awareness. We all have weaknesses, it’s human nature, but those who are aware of them are able to put things in place to improve them. If you are applying for a role lower than your qualifications, address it and use the opportunity to confirm your commitment to the role and the company.
Finally, be honest. If you left a company because you don’t make a good manager, that’s not a problem if you aren’t applying for a manager’s job. In fact, if the job is not offering career progression, it would make you a top candidate for the role. Making mistakes in a previous role is not an issue if you are honest about them and explain what you have learnt from the experience.
If you have any thoughts or questions on the article, please tweet us.
If you want some personal advice about your particular situation, please get in touch with our team on +44 (0) 2392 322 356.
Navis Consulting. Keeping your career on course.