Anyone who lost a job in the last couple of years of economic turmoil might know that feeling of simply being dumped! And regardless of what corporate jargon was used to justify the break-up, a layoff hurts both the morale and the wallet. And just like in dating, one of the first steps to move on is to jump into the first available job opportunity.

This scenario is being repeated over and over in the job market as more people have become desperate for jobs, any jobs even if they are not in their league. In the meantime, hiring managers who are also under pressure to tighten packages have seen the interest of those ultra-qualified candidates as an irresistible bargain. The result? More people, driven by low sentiment and high stacks of bills, are now in positions that they themselves view as below their abilities.

The trend was spotted in a recent survey in the US which found 54 per cent of those who were hired after they suffered a spell of unemployment during the recession say that they are overqualified for their current jobs. Only 36 per cent who weren't unemployed during the recession made a similar statement. The survey of 2,967 was conducted nationwide in the US last May by the US Pew Research Centre.

The economic factors may have been relatively different in Gulf cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi with lower unemployment rates and less stagnation. But when it comes to hiring, the pool of candidates is governed by similar market forces.

So is it a winning situation for both: the employer who is getting a middle manager for an entry level job and the employee who doesn't have to worry about bills, insurance or school fees? Not really. There are still a few bumps on the road of having teams that are jammed with too much experience in the wrong places. Here we go:

Lines and boundaries

An overqualified employee may have earned some of these extra qualifications through years of practical experience. It might be tough to put aside these skills and even tougher to work within the new job description's limits. If you're in a similar situation, remember there is nothing really wrong with sharing your additional knowledge with co-workers and being proactive in suggesting new ideas. However, you need to watch out for how you package your assistance otherwise you might be ruining your relation with a threatened supervisor. Conscious respect for job boundaries will go a long way. Just make sure you're not crossing the line even when you think deep inside that you know better!

Experienced or just old?

Employers and hiring managers usually refrain from raising age in job interviews as considered an area of discrimination, but it might lurk in the back of their minds if the candidate seems to be lacking a current experience that is needed for the job. The concern here is that an overqualified candidate for the job may have too much unneeded knowledge. That is why you can't take it for granted that if you're applying for a job that is lower than a previous position you necessarily have all it takes. In technical and scientific fields in particular, it is important to remain up to date and use any career breaks to catch up with training. Then make sure you promote this cutting edge knowledge in your cover letters and interviews.

The bright side

Don't resent the job for being too easy, too different or just not your old better job. Yes, it can be a bit frustrating to have a job that is not challenging, but remember the recent tough years have put job security higher on demand than adventure, which is not to say give up on your career ambitions or ignore your desire for self-accomplishment. You're in a good position to outperform your peers and meet your objectives which will eventually lead to advancement.

A match made in recession

Retention is a major reason behind hiring managers' old fear of approaching overqualified candidates. They knew that once a better opportunity shows up they will have an empty chair to fill. But as hiring managers seem to be changing, it might be good to consider how to control turnover even if better opportunities seem to be years away. Blogger Michael Stumpo of CFO Daily News recently advised employers that if they do hire overqualified candidates, they should mitigate the negative aspects by giving them autonomy and making them feel valued.

True, but it is also a shared responsibility, employees need to be responsive and try to make the best out of the job. After all tough times are not over yet and while employers will value a bargain, a resentful worker who always seem on the way out can be easily dumped.


The writer is a freelance journalist based in Salt Lake City, Utah.