How to get hired at Wendy's.
September 2, 2009 9:17 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to get jobs I am overqualified for?

I am blindlingly desperate for work. I am applying just about everywhere even fast food and lower. You don't ever feel quite as useless and horrible about yourself as when you have applied at Carls Jr. and not gotten any response. I don't care that I am overqualified, I just want work, an income. How do you present yourself to those level employers? You can't come off as too ambitious, it seems, or they won't hire you because they won't think you'll stay. At least that's what it seems like. I don't know, I'm just practically breaking down because I have been out of work for 9 months and have gotten TWO callbacks out of probably hundreds of applications. I know the job market in Portland, OR right now is shit.. but jesus.. is it THIS Bad? Literally every single person I know who is working right now only got it because they had a connection who got them the job, and none of them can do the same for me. So I am just another drop in an ocean of candidates. How in the hell do you compete for even the lowest common denominator job when people with bachelors degrees are doing the same?
posted by mediocre to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You probably don't want to hear this, but as a former Portland resident the town is a horrible place to find a decent job. It sounds like you're doing what you have to do however. Tell the people you interview with the obvious -- that you're willing to work hard and learn the in's and out's of whatever the job is.

But I'll be honest -- I ended up moving to Seattle.
posted by bardic at 9:28 PM on September 2, 2009

Oh dear. I have to second bardic. You don't want to hear this - but Portland is the land of the overqualified and underemployed. I moved here before the most horrible economic crisis of all time, I graduated from an ivy, and I wrapped burritos for six months before finding a halfway decent job I still feel overqualified for.

Did you see the WW this week? I mean, law grads from Lewis & Clark are on food stamps.

The hard, horrible truth is that yes, the job market in Portland actually is THAT bad. But, like the unemployed people I know here say, better to be unemployed in pdx than unemployed anywhere else. So....yeah.
posted by Lutoslawski at 9:32 PM on September 2, 2009

I got a job at a fast food place by pretending to have no work experience. When I tried applying using resumes with years of actual work experience in office settings none of them would even call me back.
posted by Nattie at 9:39 PM on September 2, 2009

Can't speak to Portland in particular...

but I think you might be misunderstanding hirers' mentality a bit. People who manage at Carl's jr. and such know *everyone* is just passing through at a job like that. They don't expect you to make it a career. Just try to impress them with the fact you will work hard and be reliable, and not bail with not notice if something better comes along.

Maybe you can use (semi)personal connections too? Like is there any local coffee shop or pizza place you hang around? Maybe you can ask people who work there if they have any jobs, even if they don't have a sign up?

Personally, my fallback plan has always been delivering pizzas. As far as menial jobs, you don't have to deal with the public or co-workers for very long- you get to spend a lot of time in your car playing music and daydreaming of better times to come. As an older person, you might have a longer (hopefully safe) driving record and be more attractive to them.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:41 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Portland sounds tough - lots of Portland refugees in Berkeley. But, if you really want to get that low hanging job it's very important that you don't appear too overqualified. Leave some things off of your resume - big gaping holes are fine. Managers at fast food restaurants won't hire anyone that they think is just going to stay until they find another job.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:48 PM on September 2, 2009

Don't lie, but don't hand over a resume. Fill out the app with any food service you have.
posted by k8t at 9:59 PM on September 2, 2009 [3 favorites]

I moved to Portland at the end of 2002 when the economy here was not very good (though nothing like now)

I had the good fortune of having freelance work to keep me going until a got my foot in the door.

I found it easier to look for work in my field - any work - than to do something I'm not cut out for.

I do web development - and really in most cities you can kick a trash can and five guys claiming they can do web development will tumble out and show you their portfolio.

I cracked the nut by reading Craigslist every morning and responding to every new ad. Eventually I met people who knew people who liked me and had an opening and it worked.

I don't know what your field is - so my experience may not be relevant to you in particular - but I think the "just until things get better job" is a road to sadness.
posted by device55 at 10:19 PM on September 2, 2009

Response by poster: I am a bum, I have no "field". I have had office jobs, I have had restaurant jobs, I only have on term of college under my belt and I'm 28 years old. I am the very target of these lowest common denominator jobs that for the life of me, I cannot get. I don't know if it is a the glut of degree holders with friends in the business taking them, or the liberal arts hipsters with a trust fund and blue collar fantasies that are taking them, but the shit job that no one wants to do is my lot. And it is the thing I cannot get.
posted by mediocre at 10:28 PM on September 2, 2009

Don't fabricate, but match your resume to what you think the employer is after. For example, if your degree or last job is irrelevant to the role, then don't mention it.

The problem with hiring an overqualified person is that they are rarely happy and leave as soon as something better comes along. Staff turnover is a huge pain for many businesses, as are people who feel they are better than their job.

If you are identified as overqualified, address these issues - look to demonstrate why you won't be leaving in a hurry (eg, talk about how you stuck to another job) and why it is you will be a good person to have working for them.

Finally, a general tip for the jobs and competition you seem to be looking at - make yourself stand out from the crowd in a minor or irrelevant way. When you've read through 50 fairly identical applications for a job "anybody" could do, sometimes the guy who plays the bagpipes gets the job.
posted by jjderooy at 10:36 PM on September 2, 2009

With all due respect to those saying, "don't lie," I have to disagree. Over-qualification is the quickest way for your application to hit the circular file. At this point, you have to do what you have to do. After all, that's the ethics of the corporations that run these fast food outfits and your shaving a few details off your application is hardly anything to guilt trip about. Consider their crime of huge profits on the backs of workers they fail to even pay a livable wage, and then look at your withholding details a trade-off that has to be made in this day of the unbridled "free market."
posted by Gerard Sorme at 2:12 AM on September 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wait, now I'm confused. Are you overqualified or are you a bum? Often times, people who feel that they are overqualified (read: too good) for a certain job, let the people at said job know how they feel. This is often not appreciated. This is probably appreciated even less coming from a bum.

Or maybe I have it completely wrong. If so, scratch previous response and insert, "chicks dig confidence, mediocre."
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:40 AM on September 3, 2009

Only include in your application/resume things that relate to the job. Applying at Carl's, jr? Only include restaurant experience. If you get interviews, and they ask about missing time on your resume, then explain about your better jobs that you've had before, and do your best to seem genuinely interested in taking the job, like it's no big deal.
posted by molecicco at 4:28 AM on September 3, 2009

How about becoming a shift worker? Night jobs have higher turnover, and often pay a little more. If you're willing to clean offices, stock grocery shelves, clean food processing plants, do production shift work in local manufacturers, or drive cabs in the wee hours, you might find the competition less on the swing or the graveyard shift. There is usually less supervision, and higher value given to employees who are reliable on the swing and graveyard shifts, too.

Possible bonus for graveyard shift work: When you get off the graveyard shift, it's a brand new day.
posted by paulsc at 4:41 AM on September 3, 2009

Cover letter would help.

When looking to fill a low-level technician position, I got tons of resumes from high level system engineers, guys with management experience, developer experience... and yes,they weren't even considered, because they were overqualified. They would want MY job, not the job I was trying to fill a couple layers down.

That was mostly the fault of the recruiters.

Now - had one of those resumes had a cover letter attached that addressed that yes, they understood the position that was open, and why they wanted to take a step back and take it, I would absolutely not have chucked it in the O file immediately. They would have had an interview, at least on the phone.
posted by TravellingDen at 5:29 AM on September 3, 2009

Like ActingTheGoat, I'm confused. You refer to yourself as overqualified and as someone who has limited job experience and no college degree. What makes you overqualified?? Managers of service employees want people who will do their jobs without questioning procedure; who will not act haughty with the customers and their fellow employees; and who will show up in uniform and ready to work their entire shift. Perhaps you are communicating, in your manner or attitutde, that you aren't that person. Especially if you think of yourself as overqualified. Humility, honest to goodness humility, is required.
posted by Pineapplicious at 6:35 AM on September 3, 2009

You say you have office experience. Obviously you can type, and you speak standard English, which puts you well above most applicants, at least in this area. Have you tried temp services? I can't believe no one has mentioned this yet. I've gotten my last two jobs through temp services - both companies hired me on permanently because I proved myself. Even doing data entry is better than flipping burgers.

I don't know PDX at all, but in Chicagoland, you have a better chance finding an unskilled job if you go to the suburbs, because there are only so many teenagers to flip burgers, and poor people w/o transportation can't get to the 'burbs. Plus there are lots of landscapers for the rich folk, who become snowplowers in the winter.

Best of luck.
posted by desjardins at 6:41 AM on September 3, 2009

Oh, and don't fill out an app, give it to the cashier and go home waiting for a phone call. Speak to the manager right there and then. If he or she is not there, ask when they will be, and come back. Shave, get a haircut, dress decently but casually (clean jeans, solid button down shirt) and go into every single store in whatever radius you're willing to commute, whether they have a help-wanted sign or not. Don't ask if they are hiring, say you're looking for a job. Spend your free time learning Spanish, if you don't speak it already.
posted by desjardins at 6:48 AM on September 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Have wide open availability. Really. Tell them that you'll take any shift they have. And be sure to call/visit places after you hand in an application, several times if necessary, to ask for an interview.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:19 AM on September 3, 2009

Yeah, you really can't be overqualified, as such, for a job at the legal or economic minimum wage in front-line retail. No one stays in those jobs for long and no hiring manager expects otherwise. There has to be something else missing.


(1) you are under-qualified ... the job market is bad enough that Carl's Jr. could easily have enough applications from people with significant recent (fast) food or retail experience that ended for reasons beyond the applicant's control (like a store / restaurant closure). Retool your application to show that you are well qualified (if you can).

(2) The working language of the place you are applying is Spanish. Not much you can do there.

(2) Something about you presents a red flag. The main concerns a supervisor has about a low-level retail are showing up on time to shifts, following directions exactly, not stealing, and maintaining the grooming and hygiene standard. Maybe you need to dry-run your application process -- how you dress and style before you walk in to request and return and application, how you fill out an application, etc., to see that there isn't something that you're doing that suggests you aren't a fit. Nose piercings, multiple ear piercings, and visible tattoos need to be avoided...
posted by MattD at 8:39 AM on September 3, 2009

I am a bum, I have no "field". I have had office jobs, I have had restaurant jobs, I only have on term of college under my belt and I'm 28 years old.

So I don't see how you're "overqualified" here. Is it that you used to manage a fine dining restaurant and now you can't get a gig flipping burgers at Carl's Jr.? Because you could fudge a bit and say you worked at La Eaterie Chic, rather than saying you were the manager, and so on.

You may be having a hard time getting jobs because the market really sucks, not because you're overqualified. As others have said, the options in that case are to broaden your net--apply for night shifts, for jobs in areas you hadn't thought of, etc.--or move.

Have you tried looking for jobs in food service at nursing homes, hospitals, etc.? I don't know what the situation is in Portland, but around here those jobs have a tremendous rate of turnover and they're always looking for people with any restaurant experience whatsoever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:45 AM on September 3, 2009

A while back, on a desperate whim, I bought a custom rubber stamp and a pad of red ink. The stamp says HIRE THIS ONE.

It sounds silly, but it's worked for me twice, and got me an interview several other times. In each case, it was specifically mentioned as the differentiating element back when my experience and education was no better than the other applicants.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:18 AM on September 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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