In the August 9, 2011 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter gets rejected for demonstrating initiative, and asks for a work-around:
You have urged us to convince the hiring manager we can bring value to a job. Believe it or not, this doesn’t seem to be appropriate in some circumstances, unfortunately.
I have had experiences with accounting and IT (information technology) hiring managers. Each had a detailed requirement of the role to be filled. When I focused on what I could bring to the table, the post-mortem in each case was, “She is overqualified.” They just wanted someone to tick off the boxes on the requirement and show proof of competence in those areas. Going beyond was automatic rejection.
Maybe certain roles demand a pedantic mind to succeed, and it’s not possible to present a good business case to such people when they are the hiring managers. What do you think?
Nick, do you have a work-around for this circumstance?
Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)
This is an excellent question. But I don’t think this is really about the job. I think it’s about the employer. I’ll take the liberty of re-phrasing it:
Do I want to work for someone who wants me to be a grunt, and not add anything to the job?
If you do, then don’t offer anything more in the interview than the interviewer asks for. That is, check off the boxes and go along for the ride. The trick, of course, is figuring out whether the employer wants more or not. I’m not sure that’s possible without betraying higher intelligence and motivation.
But if you want a job where you’re contributing to the business, and if you want an employer that cares, then keep doing what you’ve been doing. Show what you can bring to the table. Employers that want to hire robots will fail the interview, just as this one did.
No offense intended — honest — but I think what you’re getting at is, How do we dumb ourselves down so we can get a job that doesn’t require our full participation?
Maybe you just answer the questions you’re asked, and say little more than that… (This is where some of my advice is omitted. To get the whole story next week, subscribe to the newsletter. It’s free! Don’t miss another edition!)…
Note to human resources managers: If your company wants grunts, please stop talking about “hiring talent.” You know who you are.
I know there are managers who don’t give a rat’s batootie how capable a job candidate is, beyond meeting the minimum requirements. There are also people who close their eyes and gobble down anything in the fridge, because they consider cooking a waste of time. Anything they can stuff in their face will do.
I don’t disparage anyone who just needs a job to pay the bills, and who will take anything they can get. But that’s not the audience I write for. I write for people who love to cook tasty meals and enjoy seeing big, gratified smiles on the people sitting around their table — like their boss and their co-workers. Because life’s too short for just plain “competent.”
Managers who reject job candidates capable of doing more than the job description aren’t managers. They’re grunts, too. When grunts run a business, talented workers eventually all leave. The customers and investors usually depart after that. I think getting rejected by grunt managers is a good thing. But if you want to work around such rejection, just sit quietly and chow down on the mush grunts serve you.
I’m sure people have strong opinions about this. I’d love to hear them! Even routine jobs benefit from smart, motivated workers who want to help a business be more successful. But I could be wrong. Are employers smart to hire grunts?