Applying for jobs is not easy and often feels like a part-time job in and of itself. But applying for jobs in which you might be under- or overqualified for a position can be even more challenging. Below is expert advice to provide advice for job seekers sprinkled with a few important tips.
For an expert opinion about how to approach these situations, I was fortunate to interview Mr. Victor Miller, National Recruiting Manager at Performance Matters Associates, Inc. (PMA). He has over 15 years of experience in recruiting and human resources. He has also been a very active member of several professional human resources associations such as SHRM and NAAAHR.
Mr. Miller’s expertise lies in talent management and training other HR professionals on not only how to obtain wonderful talent but also how to keep them. Additionally, he trains recruiters to make sure they understand what an employer is looking for before doing the legwork of finding the right candidate.
THE KEY TO LINKEDIN
When asked what he would advise for under- and overqualified candidates, he emphasized the importance of keeping the LinkedIn profile updated when receiving new accolades or gaining new experience. Otherwise, it is too easy to forget what you have done in the past and that makes it impossible for recruiters to know what makes you special.
There are many that don’t realize that you can turn on the option to let recruiters find and contact you on LinkedIn. This option may not be set to “Yes” by default. To find out how to fix this, navigate to this link.
COVER LETTER INSIDER KNOWLEDGE
Mr. Miller also revealed that cover letters are not really read UNTIL the stack is narrowed down to the top two or three candidates. When there are hundreds of applications, cover letters, and resumes to sift through by human hands, many recruiters and hiring committee members will look at the resume first to make sure you have the bare minimum requirements for the job.
HOWEVER, if the job description required a cover letter and you didn’t provide one, don’t think that you will still make it to the “consider” pile. Not including what was asked for in the job description just shows lack of attention to details and gives the impression of laziness.
Also, if the company you are applying for uses scanning technology as a gatekeeper, that software will be scanning the cover letter for necessary keywords before allowing your application to be considered.
Always try to find out how your field or potential employer typically handles hiring. For some fields, the cover letters are just as important as the resumes. For instance, creative fields or even higher education fields, handle the hiring process very differently than medical or insurance fields.
For the letter crafting, Mr. Miller explained that underqualified candidates should focus on relevant accomplishments for present and past employers. Those accomplishments in the letter should be worded to relate to the opportunities that you are currently applying for.
Try to include accomplishments that are quantifiable in your cover letter and in your resume. To do this, you should always look for and record quantifiable performance opportunities in all of your employment because this information will provide stronger evidence of your work ethic and effectiveness to recruiters and potential employers.
THE LOADED QUESTION
For overqualified candidates, dealing with that inevitable interview question of why your interested can be a tough one. Mr. Miller advises expressing past enjoyment of certain aspects of a similar past position. Does the current position you are applying for allow for focus on those enjoyable aspects?
According to Mr. Miller, communicating the value of past experience and how that experience can help the company and fellow co-workers is key. And assure the potential employer that the position is not a stepping stone but instead a long-term commitment.
If you are under- or overqualified for a job, in many ways you handle the application process with some of the same techniques as you would in any other situation. All situations demand strong networking, so never stop networking. And never stop updating your LinkedIn. But for those who are underqualified, make sure that cover letter spells out the value you have contributed in your past positions. It will be important if you make it to the shortlist.
For overqualified applicants, emphasize why you are passionate and enjoy the work for the job you are applying and make sure that potential employer knows you aren’t planning on skipping out on them as soon as a position higher up the food chain becomes available.
And of course, for all situations, none of this advice matters if your cover letters and resumes are full of errors so be smart and get your letters and resumes proofread. I’m available to help!