Based on title alone, employers may pass on your profile. They may either think you have too much experience, are too hands-off, too expensive or not interested in doing the role they have open. This happens pretty often since titles and job duties vary drastically from company to company. A "Manager of Software Development" in one place could be synonymous with a "Lead Developer" or even a "Director of Software" someplace else. All of this confusion can create the illusion of being a mismatch. On top of this, your overall years experience can also give off the same mixed message.
Don't be screened out for the wrong reasons. The key is to first know if you are subject to this kind of "Title or Tenure Discrimination" and to understand what the manager's concerns will likely be. Then you can market and position yourself more effectively in order to be considered.
How do you know if your title or tenure may be an issue?
- You have a total years of experience that far exceeds (by more than 5 years) the tenure requirement for the job.
- Your current title ranks higher than the open position title and may even match or outrank the Hiring Manager themselves.
- Your current title doesn't accurately represent your current skills.
- You have a manager title, but don't do very much managerial work.
What will employers have concerns with?
- Concern of Challenge: they are afraid that since you have already been exposed to more advanced or managerial work that you will become bored quickly with a role perceived to be lower ranking and/or less difficult.
- Concern of Focus: they are afraid that, even if you take your management hat off, you will try to resume a leadership role anyway and assert yourself inappropriately to run and direct things.
- Concern of Retention: they are afraid that if you take a step back in title that you'll see this as a concession and a short term career move that will mean you will ultimately leave down the road to pursue your prior position's stature, focus and income.
So how do you handle this?
- Clarify your career goals by placing a statement within your resume objective that addresses your receptiveness to other titles and job levels. Many times there is an excellent reason for wanting to accept a lower title/level role. Maybe you miss being more hands-on or are interested in getting trained on a new skill set? Also be prepared to explain this during the interview.
- Define your role. If you are a Manager or Director, but are much more of a hands-on person, simply flip the order of your functional bullet points to place more emphasis on the active, hands-on responsibilities you had and try to deemphasize your managerial responsibilities. You can also consider placing a % mark next to each primary responsibility so that they can see exactly how you spent your time.
- Audit your title. Think about whether or not your title is a good fit for what you do. If it isn't approach your manager about changing this. if you can't, consider a parenthetical translation. Ex: Manager, Software Development (Hands-on Web Architect)
Know why the overqualified label may apply to you, what the manager is thinking and how to position your resume and yourself during teh interview to avoid this unfair stigma.