Are You Too Qualified for that Perfect Position?

Business frustrationI wanted to re-publish a blog that was written a few years ago by MatchStar President Carolyne Connor, which was featured prominently on the home page of AlwaysOn under her widely read “Ask the Recruiter” column.   The concept of over qualification (or the perception thereof) is even more prevalent today, as baby boomers seek to expand their working years longer, transition times between jobs are greater, and the current employment market is trickier.  This excerpt is from a real Q&A session with a prospective leadership candidate.  

QUESTION:  Hi Carolyne.  I’ve been on your email list for years (as a company CEO) and could really use your help.  I recently sold my interest in a very small company and have been looking for another opportunity.  I came out of the sales management ranks and do not want another CEO role.  Rather, I am looking for a VP, Sales position where I can leverage my 20 year career selling skills and focus on a process I really enjoy.  I am currently working with several recruiters but no one seems capable of finding the right fit.  I’ve been told I’m either overqualified or just not the right match.  It’s getting frustrating; what are your thoughts?

ANSWER:  I can understand your challenge, but it helps to appreciate how the better recruiting firms actually work.  National retained firms (as well as many boutiques like MatchStar) are hired by companies to fill an exact specification.   We work with our client CEOs to identifying a list of “absolute requirements.”  These can include such things as domain expertise, small company experience, client rolodexes (specific companies), and very specific, achievement oriented metrics.  We’re looking for a hand that fits the glove perfectly, at least along the identified criteria.  So we would not present a candidate that meets 3 out of 5 requirements, even if he/she was a terrific individual with a stellar track record.  Many candidates are frustrated by their inability to easily transfer from one domain to the other or from a large/middle market company to an early stage one.  Don’t get discouraged, and most importantly, “don’t shoot the messenger.”  We are looking for a needle in a haystack, and that haystack is defined by the client not us.

QUESTION:  So what can I do in the interim to better improve my odds?

ANSWER:  When it comes to professional recruiters, you’re limited.  Since we don’t act like Hollywood agents representing folks, you have to hope your capabilities and history meet our job spec very closely.  That’s why it is important to code your resume with as much key word data as possible to attract a broad range of software database search tools (see my blog:  “How to Structure a Resume to Increase Hit Rate on Executive Recruiters’ Databases”). 

In the interim, my advice would be to put together a list of companies (potential employers) that you think might be interested in your background and email the CEOs directly.  Tell them that you can help generate new revenues.  If you sell yourself as an aggressive “hunter” sales executive, then it may be easier for you to make the transition from owner/president to employee.  I’d pick companies that would be interested in your current rolodex of clients.  If you have a particular relationship with a client that is a prospect of one of your target future employers, you may want to have that client send a brief intro email to the CEO.  Nothing makes a greater impact than hearing from the source!  The job search is a marathon, not a sprint, and it takes endurance!  Best of luck, Carolyne