Experienced employee keeps getting rejected for new job: Ask HR

Recruiters and hiring managers are focused on whatever position they are looking to fill at the moment, and they will consider your application in that context. (Photo: GETTY IMAGES)

Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.

The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Have a question? Do you have an HR or work-related question you’d like me to answer? Submit it here.

Question: I have more than 25 years of experience. As I look for a new job outside my company, I’d like to take a step back to a less demanding position that I could enjoy more – one that fits into the life I want to have at this stage. I’m willing to compromise on salary to find this. So far, other companies just seem to view me as overqualified, falsely assuming I’m out of their price range and reject me. How do I get over this barrier? How should I handle an application? – Anonymous

Johnny C. Taylor Jr.: Tackle your challenge head-on by addressing your new career goal in your application.

On your application or resume, use the section under your name to note you are “looking for a work/life balance role” or something similar. You should detail your hopes and include an explanation of why you seek this move. Do you want increased flexibility? Reduced hours? No travel? Employers will want to know why someone with your experience is applying for the position, so help the reader of your application understand.

Recruiters and hiring managers are focused on whatever position they are looking to fill at the moment, and they will consider your application in that context. So, you are correct that they will look at your job experience and count you out because of assumptions about your salary and qualifications. Help the reader slow down and take a second to look at your resume or application by spelling out what you are looking for.

This is similar to how you would treat other experiences that may have influenced your employment history – a relocation, maternity leave or military service, for example.

You’ll also want to explain your interests in the cover letter. It is true that recruiters don’t read cover letters like they used to. But a cover letter is an opportunity to repeat your message, and it won’t hurt to attach one in an electronic application. Map your LinkedIn profile with this language as well.

How to answer the salary question in a job interview the right way.
Time

As for salary, don’t use the word “compromise” as you did in your question, because it comes across as if you are settling. Instead, explain that the posted or anticipated salary “matches” your goals, as you are not pursuing professional momentum anymore.

It could help to partner with a staffing agency, which can broker you to appropriate employers and positions. And as you target employers, look for purpose-oriented organizations such as nonprofits, schools and hospitals, as they might be more receptive to your goal.

Lastly, after you apply to your new dream job, network into it. Find people who work at the organization or use a mutual contact to give you an “in” at the company. This will improve your chances of being placed at the top of the list of applicants.

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Q: My husband’s company does not have an employee handbook. So, it seems like what is OK for some workers (like taking extra vacation days) is not OK for others. What can be done about the inconsistencies in how employees are treated? – Renee

Taylor: Having no employee handbook doesn’t mean a business doesn’t have established policies and practices.

If your husband is concerned about inconsistencies in how practices are applied, he should talk with HR. Or, if he works for a small business without an HR staff, he should approach management, just as he would about any other work matter. In doing so, he should follow normal procedures and act professionally and respectfully. 

If he feels he can’t approach his company’s leaders, he should use other avenues, such as the workplace suggestion box or an internal employee survey, to express his concerns. He could also talk with his direct supervisor. 

While an employee handbook is not legally required of employers, the lack of one can create confusion, as you note, and lead to decreased morale and potential for legal claims.

With no handbook guiding them, managers are without rules to rely on. They may respond inconsistently to situations, like providing vacation days. This can lead to perceptions of unfairness and favoritism, and it may appear discriminatory, whether intended or not.

Companies might have different policies for different groups and departments, but those differences should be based on job-related reasons.

Having an employee handbook helps employees know what is expected of them. It is a good practice that leads to consistent treatment of all employees under different supervisors and across departments. 

Guides and resources for creating employee handbooks and vacation policies are readily available, so clarity on practices could be achieved fairly easily.

Society for Human Resource Management CEO Johnny C. Taylor (Photo: Delane Rouse)

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