Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Kristen Fife's Blog

A Rose Is A Rose...Or Is It?

2010-04-20 12:24:48

Recently one of my friends found out she is being laid off. She sent me her resume to look at, since it had been a long time since she had been job hunting.She works for a small non-profit on the East coast. The first thing I noticed was that her current title is "Director."

Now, by having that title, as a recruiter I will do one of two things: pass the resume on by, or (depending on the role I am trying to fill) read it and then pass it over. Why do both of these scenarios end with me passing by?

A "Director" is the lowest rung on the executive ladder for most organizations. Most Directors have P & L responsibility combined with an organization that reports into them in a managerial heirarchy. It denotes significant organizational responsibility and a pretty hefty compensation package.

If I was looking at my friend's resume for an individual contributor role (IC), even if it was doing exactly what she has been doing, I would pass over her experience because as a Director, I won't have managerial responsibilities, staff, and the commensurate compensation to accompany the title. If I *was* looking at her resume for a Director Role and saw she was actually an IC in a small organization, I would not see the depth of experience and responsibility I am searching for. In short, she was titling herself out of a job.

When I was working at Microsoft and looking for Senior Management candidates, it was understood that a Director at MSFT would often be a VP or General Manager at a smaller company. At a smaller company, titles are often "inflated" by virtue of the size of the organization. If you are the CFO or Controller at a 10 person company, that may mean that you are responsible for all the financial functions; AP/AR, collections, general ledger as well as managing the operations budget for the organization. But that doesn't mean you, as a candidate, are a good fit for a Senior Financial Manager at a larger company.

The same is also true in reverse. One of the most prevalent questions I hear these days is from senior candidates that are "overqualified" for IC roles. A VP of HR at a 300 person company in a depressed area like, say, Cleveland or Detroit, has a hard time finding a job with the other 500 HR generalists on the market. They *have* the functional skill set to do a generalist job, but because of their experience they are being overlooked for those roles. It is frustrating for the candidate because they need to work. But there are several reasons from a recruiting standpoint that makes these candidates less attractive. The first is quite simply economic; senior candidates make a lot more money than an IC. Although these candidates are willing to take the "going rate" for an IC, it's a major gamble for any organization that is tight on money. Then there is the fear that bringing in a senior candidate will just be a stop-gap measure for them until the market turns around. In other words, they'll leave as soon as the going gets better and they can find another job. It is also a more subtle concern that a senior candidate will come in and try to change the established "order" or structure of things.

Let's face it; it is a buyer's market, and companies are the buyers. So what can you do, as a senior candidate, to make yourself more "sellable"? First, take your experience to the lowest common denominator. This does, admittedly, border on dumbing down your resume, but you *must* make yourself attractive to a potential employer. Carefully look at the job description and then pull out the requirements. Go through your employment history of the last 7-10 years, and tailor your resume to match *those requirements*. Period. Write your summary to address exactly the requirements for the organization, and get rid of extraneous accomplishments. If you were a manager, become an XYZ professional. For our CFO and VP of HR, they would become Staff Accountant and Sr. HR Generalist, respectively. Or a member of the Accounting team or the Human Resources Staff.

Make sure that your title isn't putting you out of the running for positions that you are either over- or under- qualified for. These days, for every job opening I have, I am getting a very high number of applicants, and of those, a very high percentage are going to be *exactly* what I am looking for, so I don't need to stretch to find a "relative" fit. On top of that, many organizations are required to be compliant with certain federal guidelines that state that an organization must consider *every qualified applicant.* And *only* qualified candidates. The qualifications have set parameters, and to even be considered you need to fall into those parameters (which is often defined by a set keyword search).

Remember, your resume is a tool to get you in the door. You may need several versions of it to get your foot over the threshhold.

Keeping It Real(istic)
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liza Whiting: Re: A Rose Is A Rose...Or Is It?
2010-04-21 09:54:29

great, clear advise kristen.

thank you.

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