A Blog for Job Seekers

Overcoming Being Overqualified

Have you ever been told you’re “overqualified?”  It’s a common quip heard by recent graduates with LOTS of education and training – but no work experience, or professionals over 50, and sometimes candidates attempting to transition to a new industry or new market.

What does the employer really mean by “overqualified?”  Perhaps they fear you’ll leave for a more senior position within the year (or expect a promotion they can’t give) or they think you’ll get bored.  It may stem from that extra padded resume or – although they’ll never admit it – they may be noticing you’re much older than others in the department or company and fear you may retire in the next decade.  If you’re transitioning, they may worry that you are more than qualified in a specific field or market … but one that is not relevant to theirs.

“When I was looking to move to the Southern California area, I kept being told I had no experience in this metropolitan area as a Marketing Manager, so I started applying for positions one step below mine – Marketing Coordinator, Marketing Writer… and then I was told I was overqualified,” said Staci Johnson, now VP of Marketing at Roth Staffing Companies. “So I changed my resume to only reflect the experience I had that was relevant to the position I was applying for.”

And that’s exactly what you have to do … here are 5 ways to overcome being overqualified:

  • Revamp that Resume – you take great pride in all that you have accomplished, but if “overqualified” is the feedback you’re getting, it’s worth the extra effort to make a few different versions of your resume based on the positions you anticipate applying for.  Focus the resume only on the experience relevant to that position.
  • Equalize Education – Remove the PhD or MA if it’s not required for the job you are seeking.  The employer may fear you expect to be compensated for the extra years of schooling.
  • Talk Salary – Speaking of compensation, hit this topic head on.  If you know it’s something the employer will likely be concerned with, assure the manager that you’re flexible and that salary is not the most important factor for you … culture, passion, and purpose may be more important.
  • Get Current – if you feel the “overqualified” stigma is related to your age, be sure you focus only on recent history and accomplishments from the past 5 years. Stay away from examples or stories that may have occurred before the hiring manager was born.  Research the company and be able to speak about the future (what you can accomplish and how you will do it) instead of talking about the past.
  • Make a Commitment – If you think they may fear another opportunity will eventually snatch you away … be willing to make a commitment.  Tell them you will not leave for a bigger/better job for a certain period of time and point to long-term commitments you’ve had in your previous work history.

In the end, don’t let the “overqualified” response derail you.  You’re not going to change an employer’s mind if they’ve already passed on you … but reach back out and ask for genuine feedback on what made you overqualified so that you can make adjustments in your future job search (maybe it was something you said, or the way you dressed, or a reference…).  Stay positive.  Let’s face it, sometimes you ARE overqualified and it’s better to wait for the right opportunity – but when you truly are willing to take on a lower-paying or lower-status job, adjust your presentation to fit the position.  And don’t forget to work with a recruiter who can help vouch for you and your career aspirations to a hiring manager – they can often bridge that gap with a potential employer.

 

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