I’ve been unemployed for some time but there are relatively few jobs in my field, so I have started applying for roles that I’m over-qualified for. The general reaction has been suspicion. Employers and agents don’t seem to understand why I would want to apply for a role more junior than I’ve worked at before. How can I overcome this?

If you’re over-qualified for a role you’re applying for, the problem is one of credibility. Employers may have a range of concerns, from how you lost your last job, through why you can’t get a job at the same level, to how long you’ll stay in the job if they offer it to you, to whether you’ll upset the apple cart because you used to manage things a different way.

The only way to address this is to close the credibility gap. Be honest about your skills and experience on your CV, but if you’re actively downshifting, use your career goal section to explain where you are now, and what you want now.

If you can’t get work at your old level, use your cover letter to acknowledge this, and make some positive suggestions about how the employer might make use of your extra skills and experience if they took you on rather than someone without your extra experience.

If you sense that the employer is uncertain about making an offer, ask if you can step in to do some pro bono work for a week or so. This will give you the opportunity to become less of an unknown quantity, build relationships and put minds at ease.

Don’t look on this as a problem, only as a challenge that needs thinking creatively about.
And don’t be disheartened if you have to drop a grade or two temporarily. The cream always rises.

October 30th, 2009 | Posted in career goal, job hunting, overqualified | No Comments

I dread interviews because I ramble

I dread interviews because I ramble. I can never get my point over clearly, and quite often end up not answering the interviewer’s questions. What can I do to manage my nerves and get across my skills and experience?

You are more in control than you think in an interview. Provided you’ve read the job description and you are completely familiar with your application, you should be able to answer most questions that come up.

Preparation pays dividends

Still, it pays to put some time in on preparation. Divide a piece of paper in half, and on one side write a list of the skills, experience and qualities in the job description. On the other side, write items from your CV or application form that demonstrate you have that skill or quality. You can take this list with you into the interview room. Taking notes with you (kept neatly on a pad or in a folder) simply shows you’ve done your prep. It won’t count against you. It’s not an exam.

You can expect the kind of question that asks: ‘tell me about a time when…’. These questions aim to get you to show that you have the essential skills, experience or qualities in the job description, so be prepared with some specific examples. You can even tailor your CV to attract questions about particular topics.

Try to only talk for one or two minutes per example. If you have difficulty estimating how long that is, then just start with two sentences – one describing the situation and one describing what you did. And then stop. If they want more detail, they’ll ask.

Make a great start

One thing that will help prevent the interview going off the rails in the first place is to rehearse an answer to the question: ‘Tell me a little about yourself.’ It’s usually just used as an ice-breaker question, but how you answer can set the tone for the rest of the interview.

We’ve coached clients whose answer lasted all of twenty seconds, and others who started with where they went to school and rambled on for more than five minutes, taking up precious interview time.

To prevent this, think about four key things you want to get across, starting with what you’re currently doing, mentioning a couple of career highlights, and ending with what you’d like to do next. It doesn’t have to be a chronology, provided it makes sense. And rehearse it – preferably with a partner – until you can reel it off comfortably. Answering this first question well will give you confidence for the rest of the interview.

You’ll find lots more hints and tips in our section on preparing for interview.

October 24th, 2009 | Posted in interview, nerves, preparation, questions | No Comments

The jobs I’m being contacted about are not the kind of job I want!

I’m getting a lot of interest for my CV, which is posted on a number of job hunting web sites. However, the jobs I’m being contacted about are not the kind of job I want! Why is this happening and how can I attract the kind of work I want to do?

Recruiters find CVs on online sites using key-word or key-phrase search rather than by trawling whole CVs. This is why you may be asked to cut and paste the content of your CV into a window when you register on job search sites, and also upload the complete CV as a file.

Take a highlighter pen to your CV and highlight all the job title and task-descriptive words in it that you might expect to see in a job advert. Now stand back and look at all the highlighted words. What kind of job have you described? We’d be willing to bet that either it’s the kind of job you’ve been contacted about, or no clear job description is coming through.

To combat this, you need to do two things. One is to be very clear about the job you want. Have a really good think about what you want your personal ‘vacancy sign’ to say. Use key words and phrases that sum up your ideal job. Take inspiration from looking at job adverts or job descriptions.

Next, you need to include more of these terms on your CV. This is why it’s good to have a career goal rather than a career summary – it gives you the chance to say what kind of work you really enjoy, and what kind of job role you’re looking for. Also review the descriptive words you’ve used on the rest of your profile, and adjust them to highlight the skills and experience you have that would make you a strong candidate for your ideal job.

Now, when recruiters contact you, it should be about more appropriate roles. You will also get a boost in enquiries as posting a revamped profile and CV will make you show up as ‘newly-posted’ on the job search sites.

October 22nd, 2009 | Posted in career goal, CV, job hunting, recruiter, stand out | 1 Comment

Should I claim benefits?

I’ve just been made redundant and received quite a decent settlement, which means I don’t need to work again straight away. Should I sign on?

There are two important points here. One is that, whether or not you need or want the benefits, you should sign on because the Department for Work and Pensions will then credit your national insurance account with NI contributions as though you were working. This will prevent any sizeable gap developing in your NI record, which could affect your pension or your rights to benefits later on. You can choose not to claim for benefit – ie, you can claim for NI credit only – but the rules on this have been tightened up in recent months, so you will have to continue to present a job search every two weeks, even if you are only claiming NI credit.

The other point is not to under-estimate how long it can take to get another job. When economic conditions are normal, a manager or professional can expect their job search to take between three and six months. In the current economic environment, it might take a lot longer, especially if you are in a badly-hit economic sector. So, don’t leave it too long to start looking.

Consider doing something definite with your time away from work, so that you have something positive and constructive to show for it when you next interview. It’s all too easy for time off to develop into a gap that can be hard to explain away for several years afterwards.

October 20th, 2009 | Posted in benefits, new job, NI, redundancy | No Comments

Asked to do someone else’s job

I was recently hired as a junior designer. A member of staff who did a lot of admin has just left, and now my employer has said that they won’t replace this person, they want us (myself and another designer) to take on that person’s tasks. What can I do?

Firstly, try to find out whether your employer is in difficulty (you can see tips for doing this here). It may be that they are not in a position to hire anybody else, in which case it may be better to pitch in and share the workload in order to keep a job.

Next, get your employer to be specific about the new tasks and the amount of work involved. Ask whether they see the extra work as a temporary thing or a permanent change. If it’s temporary, ask for a date on which the extra workload can be reviewed. Be ready with a list of your own duties and ask the employer to prioritise, working through what will happen to any excessive workload.

You may find doing a different job more interesting than you think, and it never hurts to learn more about how the rest of the business works. Make sure you excel at your day job, though, so that any new design work naturally comes your way.

If the change is permanent, and you really don’t want to do it, you may need to think about looking for another job.

October 13th, 2009 | Posted in job description, job role, workload | 3 Comments