Skip to Main Content
by R. Karl Hebenstreit | March 10, 2009


What goes around, comes around. The same employers that were begging for candidates a few years ago and providing stupendous salaries, incentives and leaps of faith in the hiring and candidate-assessment process (showing extreme imagination and generous out-of-the-box thinking in how to transfer skills from a totally unrelated field to their job-opening's requirements) have done a 180-degree turnaround. It is common practice now (in a job market with a glut of qualified and overqualified applicants for every position and that consistently generates 300-500 candidates for every job posting) for hiring managers to demand, and get, the ideal candidate for their job description. Although this may sound like a utopian situation for the employer, in reality it's far from it. Let's consider some implications:

  • Someone who has performed the exact position being advertised is making a lateral move into that position. He or she may be overqualified and move on if no advancement opportunities or career path are made available to him or her within the organization in a certain amount of time. The short-sightedness of the organization in hiring an exact match rather than providing someone with a growth opportunity will cost the organization in the near term when the economy gets better, as it will have renewed recruiting, lost productivity and training and development costs.

  • An employer who takes advantage of an employee's unemployed status and offers a lowball salary is not forward-thinking enough to account for what is likely to happen when the economy improves. When the new hire finds out that he or she was brought in at a salary lower than his or her peers (and they will!), the employer will be faced with a disgruntled employee who will most likely leave for a fairer opportunity when the chance presents itself (or have an employee who, according to equity-theory predictions, will perform sub-par to compensate for the relatively lower compensation). The employer will then bear costs of lower productivity, absence and eventual recruiting, lost productivity and retraining costs.

  • An employee who is hired into a lateral position after a lengthy layoff will have to play catch-up. The laid-off employee has been out of the workforce for several months and has not benefited from on-the-job learning, training, development, intellectual engagement or incremental salary increases (through no fault of their own). This employee will want to catch up fast. By presenting a qualified employee with a growth opportunity, the forward-thinking employer should be generating a loyal employee who will stay with the organization even when the economy improves.

On the other hand, there are some employees that want to continue to perform at the same level as their previous position for a variety of motivational and situational reasons. If this is the case and you encounter an objection from the employer that you are overqualified for the position and will likely leave, you can always counter with the following arguments:

  • "My impeccable record of stability and tenure in my previous positions shows that I am not the type of person." [Keep in mind that this tactic is only effective if you have had a long history (3+ years) with your previous employers.]

  • "I am very interested in joining your organization and would like to know what future growth and advancement opportunities would exist for me on this career path."

The job market is, obviously, cyclical. It follows the economic rule of supply and demand and is dependent on many factors, the most influential of which is the state of the economy. When demand for employees is high and the supply of qualified workers is low, the employees have the upper hand and can carve out extreme career growth and advancement opportunities for themselves. In the reverse case, when demand for employees is low while supply of qualified workers is high, the employer has the upper hand.

Nevertheless, job seekers should not be discouraged by a buyer's market. Optimism can be one of your most valuable assets. Do your best to make your case to potential employers.


Filed Under: Job Search