He Keeps Getting Branded as Overqualified

Joseph writes:
I enjoyed your article about
overqualified job applicants
. However I do not agree with your assessment of the “out-of-work-
desperate-for-any-job” applicant. Unfortunately we all need money to live. A person is better off employed
beneath their level of ability than unemployed. Any employee will bolt for a better offer. The risk is
always present.
Being overqualified is in the eye of the beholder. I have had people tell me that I would be
unchallenged in a particular position. It is very flattering but my bank does not give
credit for flattery. I am cast as overqualified and I need assistance. It has been almost
one year since I have had any employment. Also I have gotten about four interviews.
Yet I hear the complaint that good accounting help is hard to find. This is maddening
because this is what I want to do.

The Career Doctor responds:
I’m sorry to hear of your predicament. I agree with you that there are times
when a job-seeker has to take any job — what we call survival jobs — to avoid
living on the streets. But there is a big difference between taking a low-level job
at Arby’s and applying for jobs in your field and being told you are overqualified.
When an employer tells you that you are overqualified it usually is masking a
bigger issue. Sometimes it’s a worry that they cannot afford to pay you the salary
you should be making. Other times it’s the fear that you will NOT be happy
with the job — that it will bore you — and that you will leave the company and
they will have to conduct a whole new job search. Finally it simply may be
a euphemism for a concern that you are too rigid and stuck in your ways and
would not fit in well with the current team.
If you have not had employment for a year — and only 4 interviews in that entire
period — then the little alarm in my head rings quite loudly that you have
serious flaws in your job-search strategy.
Here are my suggestions.
First you need to be working. My best suggestion is to contact local temporary employment agencies that place accounting/bookkeeping types and work with
one that will get you back into the workforce. You might also volunteer with a
local non-profit and offer to help with their books. Perhaps contact some local
CPAs and offer your assistance.
Second you need an honest opinion of what is not right with your approach.
Find a local career counselor or trusted friend and go through the entire process –
from resume and cover letter to mock interview. I think you have multiple problems
here that need to be fixed before you can then go about trying to find a permanent job.
An article that might help you is this one published on Quintessential Careers:
10 Reality Checks
of Job-Hunting: Overcoming Common Job-Search Mistakes