One of the toughest obstacles to getting hired: Being overqualified, or being told you’re overqualified by employers.
You might hear it in rejection emails after applying for a job, in an interview question, or when you get feedback after your interview.
No matter what, it’s frustrating, demoralizing and difficult to overcome!
Don’t worry though, in this article, I’m going to walk you through:
Let’s get started!
Before discussing how to get hired while being overqualified, we need to define what “overqualified” really means…
Employers have a few big fears and concerns when hiring someone.
One of the biggest is the fear that you’ll leave within the first year. You see, it costs a lot of time, energy and resources to hire you, train you, etc.
It’s often weeks or months before you really start producing results for the employer, yet they’re paying your salary starting from day one. They’re also paying people to train you, supervise you, set up benefits/payroll with you, etc.
It’s a big process and when they hire a full-time, permanent employee, they don’t want to have to repeat that process again soon.
So often times, when they ask “aren’t you overqualified?” they’re just concerned you don’t really want this job for the right reasons, and you’re unlikely to stay for long.
Along with that, they may worry your salary expectations are too high for what they’re willing to pay.
Now, we can’t do a lot about that last one unfortunately… the only solution is apply to many companies, like any job seeker should do, and accept that a few might not want to hire somebody your age if you’re job hunting at age 50+.
That’s okay! You only need to find one job, right?
For all the other obstacles listed above, there are simple ways to put an employer’s mind at ease and quickly answer any questions about you being overqualified.
The best way to get hired even if you seem overqualified is to address these issues upfront.
If you think salary might be their concern, tell them that you understand that this position might not pay as well as some of the positions you’ve held in the past, and you’re okay with that.
For example, here’s one common scenario I see a lot as a Recruiter:
Any time you’ve been a Manager or Supervisor in the past, and then you apply for an individual-contributor position where you won’t manage anyone, employers are going to be concerned about why you seem to want to take a step back in your career.
You’ll often hear questions like, “aren’t you overqualified?” in scenarios like this.
The key is to show them this is what you want to be doing, and you’ve put a lot of thought into this. Explain WHY you’ve made the decision to move into an individual contributor role.
If you explain yourself well, they’ll be thrilled to have someone with your experience in that type of role! But you have to explain yourself.
One great way to put their mind that you want their job at ease is show them you’re applying for multiple jobs of this type.
You might end your explanation by saying, “… in fact, all of the positions I’m applying for now are individual-contributor roles. This is the exact type of role I want, after putting a lot of thought into it.”
Once you’ve decided to apply, it’s a good idea to address the fact you’re overqualified in your cover letter.
Explain what you’re looking for, why their position caught your attention, and how you’d help their organization succeed. Make sure to spend extra time/effort showing them you’ve thought a lot about your job search, and why this job is the exact type of job you’re looking for.
Here’s an article on how to write a great cover letter.
Next, you’ll need a great resume. If you’re overqualified, you’re probably wondering, “should I remove some experience from my resume?”
You don’t always need to, but if you’ve been working for 20+ years, it can help curb age discrimination and get you more interviews.
However, the most important thing is to tailor your recent resume experience to be as relevant as possible for the jobs you’re applying for.
For example, if you’re a former manager looking to move into an individual-contributor role, you really want to emphasize the hands-on, direct work you’ve done recently, if any.
Don’t emphasize management, leadership, and delegation because you won’t be doing any of that in your next job.
You need to show employers what’s most relevant to THEM. And you figure this out by studying their job posting.
If you want help writing a great resume, here are some resources to get you started:
Next up is the interview. If you’ve written a great resume and cover letter, you should start getting interviews even if you seem overqualified for the position you applied for.
But the employer is still going to ask you about it in the interview, so be ready to answer questions about being overqualified.
The tips and resources above will give you the best chance at getting a job while being overqualified.
But nothing works 100% of the time. Some employers out there just will not want to hire you for their job, no matter how persuasive you are.
They have a certain type of person in mind, and your background doesn’t quite fit that.
But that’s okay. There are so many employers, and you only need one job, right?
So don’t get discouraged.
If you follow these steps, focus on doing things the right way, and keep repeating… you will find a job.
Yes, absolutely. As long as it’s a job you want! Never let someone discourage you from applying for a position you think you’d perform well in.
This is true whether you’re overqualified, or a tiny bit underqualified (missing one or two specific areas of experience, but qualified otherwise).
You never know unless you apply. The only sure-fire way to NOT get the job is to not apply.
Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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