We all know the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. She tested the porridge, the chairs and the beds and each time found one that was “just right”.
Employers are looking for “just right.” Not under-qualified, not overqualified. That is why new college grads and seasoned professionals are having difficulty right now.
So what can you do? The resume and cover letter, phone screen and interview are the three areas for a job seeker to fine tune or adjust to please Goldilocks.
Resume and Cover Letter
Before you even open your resume, take the time to review the job posting carefully. Underline the key words and phrases in the posting. (Not phrases like interpersonal skills and teamwork, those are minimum requirements, the other stuff.)
Next, go research the company, if you haven’t already done so. Learn about them so you understand why they have this opening and/or what’s driving this need for the position.
Now begin writing and editing:
- Use the key words and phrases in your summary.
- Omit words and phrases that are not directly related to the position
- Re-assess the job titles you are using? Instead of Sr. Business Systems Analyst, be an Analyst or something closer to what the job title is you are looking for. Don’t lie, you can hyphenate your job title to include the real one second. “Analyst/Business Systems”
- Each bullet under your work history should address one of the requirements of the job (don’t repeat yourself, only one bullet per skill/requirement)
- Limit the extent of your work history to 10-15 years
In the cover letter:
- Explain why you are interested in this position in the first paragraph. Say more than “it is an excellent use of my skills”.
- If it is clearly a job below your abilities, you better reference why you are interested in taking a lower skilled job. (Don’t tell them you are desperate)
- Highlight the specific match of skills/talents you have for the position in the second paragraph.
If you are getting phone calls, that means your resume is working. Now, be sure to answer their questions so they don’t eliminate you here. You want the interview!
- Be prepared to defer the salary expectation question. You are flexible and you understand that salaries are different now and you are financially prepared to adjust your income for the correct job and employer.
- Be likable! Leave your frustration at the door.
- Ask good questions and show interest in the position.
- Have your accomplishment stories ready to answer questions with specific and relevant examples.
- Again, be ready to explain why you are interested in this job and employer. Make them believe you are going to stick around beyond the training period and that you won’t be bored with this job.
If you are getting interviews, great! Everything else you’ve done has worked.
All the same advice holds true during the interview. Stick to your story of why you are interested in this job and employer. Be enthusiastic. Learn about the position! The interview is a dialog.
This post was written to help a job seeker who asked for advice on how to not appear over-qualified. If you have a question you would like answered, email me!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.