Friday, June 18, 2010

Of Pandemic Epidemic Portions

Performance improvement is about gathering facts, identifying problems, creating solutions and measuring change. Sometimes the "facts" come is piecemeal. Piecemeal data is still data though finding the connections can be harder than it would be given a complete data set.

Consider these statements and their sources. What is your diagnosis? Is there a performance issue?

Recruiter to friend: "You might want to reorganize your resume so that it shows only 10 years of experience rather than 25."
Ex-executive to friend: "I am getting rave reviews in my new job. Even though it is called a Director position, I don't supervise anyone. I'm really doing production work, again. I don't think they realize how over qualified I am for this position."
One laid-off employee to another: "Welcome to the world of consulting, we're never unemployed; we just become independent consultants... while we keep looking for full-employment and try to find consulting contracts. It's really depressing the way {our previous employer} is able to consistently lay off... er, re-deploy 70-80% of their employees with more than 10 years experience all the while promoting the importance of building a knowledgeable and skills workforce and retaining the best of the best… and still not be taken to court for age discrimination. Weird! Really weird. "
Recruiter to candidate: "With all your experience, why are you applying for this job? Would you be happy doing work that is not very challenging any more? What guarantees to we have that
Recruiter to candidate: “Thanks for the great interviews. We have decided to go with someone else. By the way, you are really overqualified for this position.”
Jobseeker to Jobseeker: “Are you getting any interviews off your job applications? I’m sure not. I’d go with the advice to only emphasize my last 10 years of work but all these websites require the date of your college degrees, which gives away the fact that I’m over 50 and got a masters twenty years ago. Have you found any way around it?”
Jobseeker to Jobseeker: “You realize that all these web applications are reviewed by a 20-something who is trying to get a perfect match to the job description… and maybe a little bit more. They don’t understand what they’re reading when they read an application and resume with 20 some years of experience; it’s outside their frame of reference.”
Recruiter to job-seeking friend: “Well, you are overqualified. Employers don’t want to hire the overqualified because they think you’ll jump ship when a better job comes along.”
News article headlines: “Employers finding it difficult to hire qualified employees even in hard times.”
Newly unemployed to long-unemployed friend: “Yeah, they gave me 30 days to find an internal job and the quote-unquote help of a recruiter before being redeployed. Since they’re going through downsizing again, there weren’t very many jobs and everyone want someone with 3-5 years experience in that position title. It was impossible. Meanwhile, my old manager is hiring two-dozen college grads to the work that I and the rest of laid-off ‘senior’ employees had been doing. Admittedly, they are adding new technology skills to those new hires. However, if they’d put even have of their training money into us, we’d have been able to add in the new skills in less time. I just don’t get it. Well, of course, I do get the money part. They can hire three 20-year olds for what they’re paying me. But those three 20-years require a lot more supervision and management than I do… well, maybe that’s part of the problem, as well. I’m fairly independent…”
Recruiter interviewer to interviewee: “I need to go through this list of skills. Please rate your experience from 1 to 5 with 5 as ‘expert’ and 1 as ‘no experience”. Needs assessments? ADDIE? Captivate? Flash? Articulate? PowerPoint? Word? Excel?....”

We have issues, folks. This represents a nationwide performance problem of unimaginable proportions. The inability to use available resources and the constant desire to throw out skilled resources without retooling them is an issue of waste management. It’s a quality control issue of the Human Resources kind.

We are experiencing the Epidemic of the Over Qualified Employee.


  1. You've certainly hit the nail on the head. This whole situation is so absurd. I'm going to send your post to a few of my consulting friends and my overqualified engineer brother who has been working as an electrician. And my engineer son who is also underemployed and his girlfriend with the American literature degree who can't find a job other than at a tanning salon.

    p.s. Thank you for your comment on my blog today! How did you come across me? From quiltart?

  2. So right you are. I got a glimpse of this a whole 13 or so years ago when, at 50+ and fresh out of extra schooling, I kept getting the run around then later learned they hired soeone with far less experience & qualifications. This happened several times & I thought "age discrimination" then, but that is hard to prove. Besides, someone desperately looking for work does not want to get sidetracked chasing wisps. What was really frustrating was when I later learned the person who was hired left for what I would call "immature" reasons and I know darn right I would have remained had I been hired. And so the whole hiring process had to be executed again. When will employers learn you get what you pay for - shorter and cheaper routes seldom pay in the long run and we all end up the poorer for it...(pun intended)

  3. Sherrie and Ladybug, you've both got the picture and the fact that this isn't about (necessarily) about age. Age is only a factor to the degree that time creates experiences that increase skill and knowledge. However, if the hiringe agents (HR and hiring manager) really only want a minimally qualified person, there may be a reason.

    Yes, Ladybug, I too have seen this happening for a long time. I saw it happen to friends back in the '80s. At that time I was in my 30s and they were in their 50s. The numbers were smaller because there were fewer employees already 50+ then. The majority of the workforce was 30-50 and bulky with baby boomers striving to improve themselves and their skills. It was easy to the one-off situations of letting senior employees go as an exception.

    At the time my mother, (like hers and yours, Ladybug)said that this was part of the American obsession with youth and avoidance with "age." It got me thinking... and I've seen it happen over and over for many decades. I'm not sure that her analysis is right. But what else could it be?

    Sherri pointed out that her brother(possible in his 40s and 50s) and her son and girlfriend(possibly 20s and 30s) can't find jobs that fit their skills. So.... what's it all about?

    I've been having some interesting conversations in LinkedIn with other professionals. One of these was very focused on the right for investors (shareholders) to earn a profit of their investment. He was unable to see (or at least validate) that those same investors needed employees to serve their customers and create their products. Over and over again, he reiterated that investors deserve to make a profit and that's the whole purpose of a business executive... ensuring a profit. There certainly was no sense of "what goes around comes around."

    The thing that may be interesting is that, having laid off the people who commanded the higher salaries and laid them off by the thousands, American business is now reaping the rewards of not having the purchasing power base that they have come to expect. After all, when you "senior" people have no income, they cut back on spending, lose their savings, sell their shares, lose their homes, go on welfare and basically start taking out of the economy. They have nothing to give in the way of purchasing... and businesses fail when their customer base disappears.... what goes around comes aroung.

    P.S., Sherri, I think that you know Ladybug (who is my aunt). She shared your site with me and my sister, Linda. Linda is a quilter but I love color and am an amateur artist. Thanks for commenting on my blog as well. Sorry it took me so long to respond.


Keep the dialogue going. Share your insights.