While the IT skills gap is an issue that largely impact employers, underemployment is a burden carried mostly by workers and candidates. In a slow economic recovery, candidates often decide that accepting a position for which they’re overqualified and underpaid is better than the alternative – unemployment, says Howard Seidel, Ed.D., J.D. and Partner at Essex Partners, who specializes in senior executive and C-suite career transition.
With that said, taking a position that might seem “below you” could be the path to an entirely new career — one that’s in greater demand and offers a lucrative future, if you’re willing to swallow your pride, according to Seidel.
“There’s no magic bullet for the underemployment situation, and trying to land a job for which you’re overqualified can be just as difficult as trying to land one for which you’re underqualified. It’s a buyer’s market and the burden’s on the candidate to convince hiring managers that they’re a great fit for an open position,” says Seidel.
For candidates who chose to go this route, Seidel advises candidates to follow this advice:
- Confirm Why the Job is the Right Job for You – Job seekers who are overqualified for a position need to explain the reason why that particular role is genuinely appealing to them and not just “any port in the storm.”
“One of the red flags for an employer is the fear that turnover’s going to be high, Seidel says, so reassuring an employer that you want to stay and grow with the company is critical.
- Emphasize Company and Cultural Fit – Experts agree that the “right fit” at a company can be more important than skills and experience. “Money is a great reason to work, but often it loses its appeal, and happiness and cultural fit can be the key to job satisfaction, which can make taking a pay cut palatable,” says Seidel.
- Establish Reliability – Wherever possible, point to your longevity at previous companies, Seidel points out. Assuring the hiring manager that you are not a job-hopper who will not leave the minute a bigger or better role comes along will go a long way toward showing you’re the right candidate.
- Showcase How Your Knowledge and Experience Can Benefit Your Manager – Make sure to emphasize that you can bring added value to the role by not only performing your own responsibilities, but going above and beyond to take work off a manager’s plate.
Seidel warns, however, that you need to make sure you do so in such a way that doesn’t signal you want to take their job. “You want your experience to be seen as a benefit and indispensable to your boss and his/her workload, without seeming eager to put them out of a job,” says Seidel.
- Emphasize Salary Flexibility – Finally, you must be willing to assure the hiring manager or recruiter that you’re willing to negotiate, and that you understand what the market rate is for the job you want. “Often, companies are hesitant and fearful of hiring overqualified candidates because of the unspoken and assumed fear of high salary demands, but you can make clear that you’re willing to negotiate,” says Seidel.