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Ask James Caan – Issue 59

Written by Kimberley Startup | August 9, 2011 | 5 Comments

James Caan Online RecruitmentDear Member,

This week I’m jumping straight into the column as I’ve chosen to discuss issues facing experienced candidates in today’s job market.

Take Anita for example. She tells me she’s 33 years old, and has over 13 years’ experience in administration, management and project support – but can’t seem to secure permanent employment.

Despite holding numerous qualifications, self-funding courses and having her CV re-written – she finds recruiters aren’t getting back to her and when they do, she is told she is over qualified.

She asked me:

‘How does one play the recruitment market successfully to beat down the comments of “over qualified”, “under qualified” and “others are better suited”, and get that interview?’

Anita, I chose your letter this week as it addressed a number of much debated issues in the group at present: being told you are over-qualified and the lack of communication from recruitment agencies.

The issue of being told you are over-qualified is a term many job seekers in your predicament have been labelled. You only need to visit the threads within the group to learn that candidates aren’t happy with the excuses or generic feedback being delved out. Something has to change.

I appreciate you are in a very difficult situation. It’s one thing to amass a considerable working history only to be told you are ‘over-qualified’, but it’s also extremely hard to be out of work when you are desperate to pay the bills and eager to get working.

I find it is easier to assess each situation case by case. If you have been told you are over-qualified request tangible feedback. I know this isn’t as straight forward as it seems, but the good recruiters out there will tell you why you may have missed out.

If you have applied for a more junior position, then it may not come as a surprise. Many senior candidates apply for more junior roles in a bid to pay the bills, only to be told they are over qualified. But if you thought you were a good fit for the job – really push for feedback. Pick up the phone, email them – see if you can contact them via Twitter or LinkedIn. Try and find ways to get the conversation flowing.

I’ve read a few group members post their own recruitment PSL – what a great idea. Have a look at agencies that have been recommended by others in your situation and use their services. Whilst they may not have an opportunity at present, they can provide invaluable advice and perhaps contacts that you may find useful.

Your letter also touches on the lack of communication from recruitment consultants. From reading responses within the group I can see this is a much debated topic – and so it should be! If you have taken the time to submit an application, it is courtesy to acknowledge your effort.

It is not all recruiters – some of the smaller, niche agencies are really proving themselves, and others are working hard to improve – but those consultants who aren’t acknowledging the candidates must sit up and take note. The recruitment consultant / candidate relationship is symbiotic: we need each other, and must work together.

Anita, you are obviously an extremely passionate and talented worker with a breadth of experience, who I imagine would be an asset to any company. The key is communicating this to the employer.

Also, think about what your competition is doing, and how they’re preparing to give themselves the edge. The calibre of candidate is getting higher, so make sure you really stand out.

Recruitment agencies and employers:

If you’re looking for someone with Anita’s credentials, why not get in touch via the group? Please share any relevant vacancies in the below comments box and let’s help the group’s job searching efforts.



5 thoughts on “Ask James Caan – Issue 59

  1. Naheed on Reply

    Hi James,
    I have 8 years experience in IT and Accounts Administration. From 2000 to 2005 I have worked as software developer. Developing accounts and H.R modules. from 2005 to 2008 I have worked as Accounts officer and 2009 to 2011 I have completed my MBA degree. I have already degree in Computer Sciences.Its been 6 months that I am actively looking for a job but no response from the recruiters or if there is any response its just says “Sorry you are not successful this time”. I really need a job but don’t know what to do :).

    1. Web Recruit on Reply

      Hi Naheed,

      Sorry to hear you aren’t receiveing tangible feedback from recruiters when you apply for roles. There may be a number of reasons why you haven’t been getting to the interview stage.

      When you apply for roles, how successful are you to getting to the interview stage? You may find your CV could do with a few tweaks. May I suggest our free CV critique service? Read here for more details:

      Alternatively, if you would like to have a chat with one of us, you can email and ask for some advice? The team is also available on 0845 0707 337 – please ask for Dan.

      Hope this helps! Lucy.

  2. Malcolm on Reply

    Hi James,

    I am a 47 year old male with almost 10 years experience in the (Social Housing / Construction sectors), in varous roles ( Neighbourhood teams, Tenant Liaison Officer & Area Housing Officer.
    Prior to this spent more than 12 years in the Hotel / Catering industry more than 10 of this in the Royal Navy, delivering to the highest levels ( High Ranking Naval Officers, Heads of State & even british & foreign Royals).
    Since Feb 2010 I have been out of work & have applied for hundreds of jobs with little or no responses, I have had only a couple of interviews & no luck at all. I am registered with at least a dozen rec agancies & posted on loads of sites including Linked-In (Nothing).
    I firmly believe as do lots of others in the same boat & of similar age brackets that we are the victims, of Ageism believe me it really does exist & is a serious problem. I now have no faith what so ever in Agencies as the oly contact I ever get from them, is to try and push training programmes onto me, a great personal cost of course. They like most businesses these days seem to be just in it for as much proffit as possible, out of clients who are more often than not broke, desperately seeking work & at a low generally.
    I now refuse to work with them anymore & will only apply where I can email / speak to the employer directly myself. Oh the agencies also are constantly bombarding you with c.v. re-writing options of course again a quite a fee, pure cons / parasites thats all they are.
    Anyway sorry for venting.



    1. Lucy on Reply

      Hi Malcom,

      Really sorry to hear you’ve had a bad experience with agencies. Contacting an employer directly is a very good way of finding new opportunities, but others use recruiters because they face a number of challenges: resources and tools to find candidates with specific skill sets, a lack of internal resources etc.

      I appreciate you have mentioned that you do not use agencies anymore, but if you wish to talk with others in a similar situation, our LinkedIn group has a number of threads discussing recruiters and their communication.

      Recruitment Agencies and their attitudes to contacting candidates:

      We also have this link, Jobs on Offer, where the community posts vacancies that may not be relevant to them so they forward on the details to see if others are interested:

      As James mention in his column, it’s not all recruiters who have this approach to candidate feedback. Here at webrecruit we’re working hard to improve the job seeker experience, and welcome any feedback you may have.

      Best of luck with your search,


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