Help, I’m “Overqualified!”

Recently I worked with an executive-level client (“Linda”) who had a very distinguished legal and compliance career, including experience with a high-growth international finance corporation and a major big city law firm. Linda worked on some extremely impressive deals and made significant contributions throughout her career. Unfortunately, as happens with many a professional, she found herself laid off due to circumstances beyond her control.

Linda came to me looking for a career services package, including resume, LinkedIn profile and strategic career planning. After our numerous hours working together, Linda had a new found sense of self-confidence and enthusiasm for her job search. She found a posted position in a company that she was very excited to apply for. I advised her to find a networking contact within the organization to whom she could send her resume, as well as applying to the online posting. Linda diligently found a contact, who got her resume into the right hands. Wonderful, right???

Well, Linda hit a glitch at this point in her job search when the hiring authority pointed out to Linda’s contact that he feared she was “overqualified” for that particular position, and wanted to know why she was applying. Linda came back to me with the “now what?” question.

My immediate reaction was that I had actually done Linda a disservice by making her look so good on her resume that she would only be positioned for executive level openings. Then again, why would I downplay a client’s brilliant career when she really did deserve a comparable position? After a bit of thought and putting myself in Linda’s shoes, I came up with a sincere and effective response to the hiring authority’s apprehension. It went something like this:

“I have done a great deal of research concerning my next career move, and I am carefully targeting companies that I believe would benefit from my particular skills and which would provide me with the challenges I crave. I am additionally considering cultural fit. I realize that a comparable position to my last one may not be available at XYZ at this time, however, XYZ is at the top of my list. Therefore, where I begin within the organization is not the most important consideration for me. I trust that once I join XYZ, my skills and qualifications will allow me to progress naturally into positions of increasing responsibility so that both XYZ and I will realize maximum value from the relationship in the long run.”

Proof Of The Power Of Networking


I’m sure you have all been advised at some time that the best way to land a job is by networking. But how many of you really understand just how powerful networking is and put the necessary time and effort into it? I’d like to share 2 recent experiences that exemplify how networking really does pay off that should motivate you to make it an integral part of your everyday lives.

An employee referral is the #1 way to get the position – how are these for impressive statistics?

At a recent Career Thought Leaders Conference, several speakers from various facets of the career industry emphasized that networking your way into a referral was the #1 way to secure the job. Gerry Crispin, a lifelong student of staffing, presented these stats regarding the hiring process:

–       On average, 75 – 150 candidates apply for each job posting.

–       Only 4 of those candidates bother to get an employee referral.

–       50% of candidates are eliminated because they are not qualified for the job.

–       Of the qualified candidates, most employers narrow down the

list to approximately 5 – 10 to invite to an interview.

–       Out of 5 interviewed, 2 are likely to have been referred by an employee of the company.

–       If you have an employee referral and you are qualified for the job, you stand a 1 in 5 chance of landing the job – much better odds than 1 in 150!

You never know where a referral might come from – the improbable story of how my manicure helped Susan to land her dream job.

nail polishWhile some of us introverts would rather stick pins in our eyes than do traditional “Networking,” such as attending meet and greet events or even making connections on LinkedIn, it is actually fairly painless to incorporate networking into your daily life. It’s really about the mindset – let everyone and anyone you encounter know that you are open to a new job – sometimes your referrals come from the most unlikely sources.

I have been going to my manicurist, Betsy, for quite some time – we know each other well, as we’ve spent endless hours chatting about our lives over pink nail polish. Since I am very involved in a nonprofit adoption center for rescued cats and Betsy and I are both “cat people,” we naturally talk about the latest doings at the shelter. Several weeks ago I was despairing about our inability to find an assistant manager after several months of placing ads and coming up empty. Suddenly, Betsy remembered that another one of her clients had mentioned that her daughter was looking for a new job – she’d recently worked in a veterinary clinic and was seeking another position working with animals. Betsy gave my card to her other client, who passed it on to her daughter, Susan, who sent me her resume, which I passed on to the shelter manager, and soon thereafter Susan interviewed for the position. After a brief trial period our manager proclaimed that Susan was a perfect fit, and just like that we finally had our new assistant manager and Susan had her dream job!

I know there are many similar stories out there – share yours…

Relieving Stress Outside the Box – A Challenge!

A colleague of mine inspired me to think outside the Blog box the other day. An inconsistent (at best), erratic (at worst) blogger, I only seem to write when I really believe I have something really new or interesting to discuss and I feel inspired – in other words, when all the stars and planets are properly aligned (approximately, semi-annually).

Well, today I felt inspired, and the topic is stress relief. I’m not going to expand on all the advice you have already heard: “Take regular breaks during the day,” “Get plenty of sleep,” “exercise regularly,” “Stretch often” “Eat properly… ” because, well, we all know this stuff by heart; we just have to commit to doing it. I love all this traditional advice and do follow it regularly myself – its all good!

However, I’d like to take stress relief to the next level if you will indulge me. This subject matter did not occur to me until after a very long work day while I was sitting next to my husband on the sofa watching the evening news with the fireplace on—I don’t know where you are reading this from, but here in the lovely Philadelphia, PA suburbs it is a balmy 38 degrees as I write. My eyes were drawn to my beloved tabby cat, Elvis, who was sprawled out on his “purr pad” in front of the fireplace; extremities outstretched, eyes closed, with the most contented look on his furry little face. It made me smile. It warmed my heart. And I just felt all the stress of the day melt away.

Confessions of a Crazy Cat Lady

If you are my “friend” on Facebook, you will be subjected to my 2 biggest obsessions: travel (most often the type that involves scuba diving) and my cats. I keep this life separate from my “professional” image on LinkedIn. I realize that my clients and colleagues mostly could care less about these things on a professional level, and my “friends” do not want to be inundated with “news” about my business. They know I write resumes. They have my phone number if they need one. This dichotomy works for me. I encourage you, too, to find an outlet for your favorite stress relief that lives in a separate compartment from your professional life where you don’t need to worry about your “image.”

For many of you, that may be your children, grandchildren, significant other, hobby, pet, etc. Whatever it is, identify it; embrace it; indulge it! For me, I de-stress around cats. Though I only have 2 of my own (limitation imposed by my spouse), I have volunteered at a local shelter for years where I can happily spend hours at a time purring away my troubles with 50+ felines.

Another Confession…

Several years ago I was having drinks with some friends at a public watering hole when someone started a challenge to go around in a circle and each name our favorite “guilty pleasure.” Enough cocktails had been consumed at this point that all defenses were down  and only the truth came out. You would not believe how funny this was, everyone being perfectly honest about their secret  obsessions that the rest of us knew nothing about. My memorable confession that night was that yes, gulp, I actually had a Bee Gees song on my iPod. There, I said it. Judge me if you will, but my ultimate escape involves dancing with my cats to “Nights on Broadway” (though the cats think they are singing about “Mice on Broadway”).

The Challenge

I have to say that this is the stuff stress relief is made of. Stretching is fine, but if you really want to relax, find time to indulge in your guilty pleasures—embrace your crazy side! I dare you to respond with your own here—c’mon, we all have them and confession is good for the soul—don’t leave me out here on the disco floor all by myself!


Informational Interviewing to Penetrate the Hidden Job Market

Frustrated with your job search and lack of invitations to interview? Wondering how you could make yourself a more attractive candidate? Thinking about a career transition or pondering whether you are in the right field? Then the informational interview might just be your solution!

Informational Interviewing versus Job Interviewing

As you know, of course, a job interview is when a potential employer invites you to a meeting to discuss a particular position with the objective of evaluating you to fill that position. While one of your objectives is to evaluate the position, your primary objective is to sell yourself in order to procure a job offer. On the other hand, the primary objective of the informational interview is to obtain information only about a particular industry, company, practice area, jurisdiction, etc., in the absence of a specific job opening. The cardinal rule of the informational interview is that you make it clear you are NOT asking for a job.

So What’s the Point?

If it isn’t going to lead to a job offer, you say, why should I bother? Well, I didn’t say it wasn’t going to lead to a job offer now did I? Only that you are not interviewing for or asking for a job at that time. Informational interviewing certainly can lead to a job offer; its just not as direct as job interviewing (more on this point below). In fact, I think of it more as a networking tool. You are simply asking for a small amount of someone’s time (usually only 15 minutes) to give you some brief mentoring. Ok, but what’s in it for the interviewee; why would someone grant me an “informational interview?” Because most people naturally like to help and mentor others—its true. It makes them feel good about themselves, and they will likely be flattered that you regard them as a good source of information. No, you will not always get the interview; however, nothing ventured, nothing gained. If your request is met with a rejection, move on to the next contact.

Benefits of the Informational Interview

1) Since you are not asking for a job, you are not competing with a bunch of other applicants for the interviewee’s time and attention.

2) The contact is more likely to grant you an informational interview because you are only asking for 15 minutes of their time and they do not need to prepare for the interview.

3) It is more relaxing for you both—you are in control and do not have a potential job offer at stake; the interviewee has no pressure to evaluate you, ask you tough questions, or offer you a position.

4) If the contact likes you and there does happen to be a position open at the time or in the future, you already have a foot in the door.

5) The contact hopefully will refer you to others with whom you can network and/or interview, multiplying your chances of finding those coveted hidden jobs.

6) You obtain some valuable information regarding your credentials, marketability and areas of interest if you ask the right questions.

Introducing Yourself—Requesting the Interview

If you do not have a networking or other connection with the person you would like to interview, prepare a brief email or letter introducing yourself. For example, an attorney who is changing practice areas might say something like this:

“Dear ______, my name is Jane and I am a litigation attorney with 5 years’ experience working  in a large law firm. I am contemplating a possible career change to an in-house position where I would manage litigation. I am contacting you because you had previously made a similar career move and I’d be very interested in your input. I know you are very busy and your time is valuable, but I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind meeting with me very briefly—no more than 15 minutes—to answer a few questions to provide me with some guidance in the next steps for my career. I am not actively looking for a job, simply exploring my options.”

Preparing for the Informational Interview

Think about the questions you really want to ask that will help you evaluate your own career choices and job search strategies. For example, what do you want to know about “X” industry? About working in the state of “X”? Ask them how they got where they are today; what do they like about what they do/where they work? Everyone’s “script” will vary depending on their unique position and the person with whom they are interviewing.

Do talk about your own relevant experience and aspirations. Ask “do you think I have the proper qualifications for “X”, or “what would you suggest I do in order to make myself more marketable in this area?” Of course you give them a copy of your resume (or better yet, a professional biography, which is more subtle) so that they can understand your background (but not consider you for an immediate position).

Your last question should always be: “Can you think of anyone else who it would be helpful for me to talk to?” Get names and contact information and of course use your last interviewee to obtain the next interview: “Hi, I’m Jane and John Doe recommended that I talk with you…”

Following Up

Always follow up with a brief thank you note for the person’s time, and ask them to please contact you if they think of anyone else who might be helpful for you to contact. Then, of course, connect with them on LinkedIn, stay in touch and let them know how you are doing!

Unraveling the Mysteries of Applicant Tracking Systems

When I explain to job seekers that they need to have 2 resumes (one for physical presentation, and one for online applications) I usually get a blank stare or a long pause. When I ask if they have ever heard of, or understand, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), I usually get an almost apologetic “uh, well, no…” as if they think they should have heard of such a creature.

The fact is, I would no more expect the average job seeker to know about ATS than my accountant would expect me to know about the latest tax ruling. Especially for those only recently looking for new employment, there would have been no reason for you to have heard about these systems.

In short, ATS are software systems used by the vast majority of employers to screen applicants’ resumes. Sadly, the consequence is that upwards of 70% of all resumes received for a particular position are rejected by the systems, and therefore are never even considered. Even more sadly, these systems are flawed in their ability to evaluate important criteria, and quite regularly reject perfectly suitable applicants.

Therefore, it is essential that you not only have a great resume on paper, but also a resume that is designed to navigate “The System.” There are many odd little tricks for designing the ATS friendly version. The following article by Meridith Levinson published in CIO does a nice job of explaining how ATS works and how to work around it: