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What To Do If You Are Overqualified For A Job

By Gerald Walsh ©

For some strange reason, employers view being overqualified for a job as a bad thing.

Their fears, mostly, are rooted in the belief that you will become bored with the work and move on once a better opportunity arises. Or, that the pay won’t match your expectations and you will become disillusioned with the job.

I am sure we can all agree that hiring someone overqualified is better than hiring someone underqualified.

Many times I have encouraged employers to challenge their thinking and consider how an overqualified employee can be a big asset to the organization.

Yet these fears persist.

Let’s say you see a job posting that really interests you—yet calls for qualifications much less than you possess. What should you do when applying to ensure you are not labeled as “overqualified?”

Tailor your cover letter and resume directly to the job. Make sure both documents emphasize how your experience matches their stated job requirements. It’s okay to leave off some of your experience and qualifications that go beyond what is required.

Omit degrees that are not mandatory for the job. Many people hold advanced degrees above and beyond what is required, or possess degrees in a completely unrelated field. Employers might (wrongly) assume you will want more money because of your advanced credentials. It’s fine to leave these off.

Leave certain jobs off your resume. Resumes are essentially marketing documents. Their main purpose is to present your pertinent experience and qualifications to an employer that will get you to the interview. Jobs that suggest you are overqualified can be left off. Related: Is It Ever Okay To Leave A Job Off Your Resume?

Let’s say you make it successfully to the interview stage and then the employer brings up your (over)qualifications.

The best way to mitigate their concerns is to ask them specifically why they feel that way. This gives you the opportunity to explain how it could work for you even though your qualifications are more than they initially asked for.

For example, the employer might assume that you want more money than they can afford. You might counter by assuring them that you are very willing to work within the salary range set for the position.

They might assume you will become bored and move on. You might counter that your work history confirms that you do not have a track record of job hopping. 

If their fears about you being overqualified persist, you can suggest you would be open to looking at different ways of working.

You might be able to work a flexible schedule, say, four days a week. Or, you might be open to a contract during which you will hopefully be able to demonstrate your value to the company.

In the end, your personality and interest will go a long way to convincing the employer to hire you, even if overqualified. It’s hard for companies to pass on candidates who are talented and enthusiastic and who will be good team players.

To share your thoughts on this blog post, please write me at walsh@geraldwalsh.com


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career. You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh