Here is the testimony to the current job market condition: the necessity-driven "downshifting" (taking a position below your lever of qualifications) has become so prevalent that HR consultants start addressing the issue as a separate subject with specific advices on how to do it successfully. There used to be times when some over-50 empty-nesters wanted to lighten their workload and spend more time at leisure, so CFO's switched to consulting, and stuff like that. Now, we are talking about highly-experienced middle-aged financial executives unsuccessfully trying to get whatever jobs they can in order to put food on the table and continue to support their post-college children, who have no chance of getting a good job either. It's heartbreaking!!!
I always had a problem with the concept of "overqualified" candidates. It goes against all commercial, practical, and common sense - why would anybody say "No" to buying a diamond ring for a price of a cubic zirconia? Why wouldn't employers want to benefit from high-level expert if he is willing (moreoever, eager) to take a much lower position and pay than the ones he used to have?
The official explanation (especially, if you talk to recruiters at Robert Half, or ExecuSearch, etc.) is always (it's like everything changes around us except for the stupid banalities) that employers don't want to take the risk of hiring someone, who will be immediately looking to leave for a better opportunity. This outdated explanation begs three responses.
First of all, nowadays the process of looking for a job is unbearably excruciating. Anyone who finally finds one is so relieved and enthused, he wouldn't want to continue that struggle for sometime (especially, if his attempts may leak through the Internet and jeopardize the position he already got).
Secondly, where are those better opportunities? The whole point is that there are no opportunities. I remember after the Internet bubble burst, let's say 2001-2002, an opening for a controller position could generate 300-350 good (not garbage) responses. It was terrifying. Today, there is a thousand of unemployed financial pros for every CFO, controller, director or VP ad.
Finally (and most importantly), even if the person leaves soon, what about the cost/benefit analysis of the time he does spend in the company? Why wouldn't an employer want to sponge a superior knowledge off of him at a lower price? Is it because the company still uses the outrageously expensive recruiting services? Well, then the agreement should be negotiated in such a way that no fees are paid until the break-even grace period passes. And anyway, people should stop wasting their money on recruiters altogether.
But we know that this explanation is bullshit. In reality, no matter how beneficial it is for the company, CEOs and existing CFO don't really want the brightest and the most knowledgeable person in the position. They want the non-threatening and obedient, know-your-place employee. Especially the CFO - what if the newcomer turns out to be better than the present loser (only losers feel threatened by someone strong; winners have nothing to fear).
Anyway, this issue is so prominent that on August 26 Finance Ladder published not one, but two career advice articles on the subject: Getting the Job When You're Overqualified and Packaging Yourself for a Smaller Role, both by Sean Gallagher. Here is the best quote:
"...Finding a job – even one that pays significantly less, with less responsibility — is still a challenge."
There are some interesting observations and advices as well. Nothing groundbreaking - most of it you can figure out yourself, but still it may be a useful reading not only for those who are looking now. Because it is not going to get any better. If you are employed now, it does not mean you will have a job tomorrow.