How to Handle Being Told You’re Overqualified for a Job

Frustrated Employee

Few jobs are a perfect fit. When you’re just starting in your career, you’re likely to find positions you’d love to have but don’t have quite the experience or training for. Conversely, as you get further along in your professional life, you might find yourself willing to take positions for which you seem to be overqualified.

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What do you do when you think or are told that you’re overqualified for a job you really want? There’s no reason to give up – there are ways to sell a potential employer on the benefits of hiring someone who has more experience than they might be looking for.

Why You Might Be Overqualified

There are many reasons why a person might be seen as being overqualified for a given job.

First, you may have been in a higher-level position before but took some time out of the workplace. Now you’re re-entering the job market and know that your long-term absence puts you at a disadvantage compared to your former peers. You know you can get back into the swing of things but need to accept a lower-level position to reestablish yourself.

It’s also possible that you’ve been a high-level performer in a particular industry but desire to change your career path. It might be unrealistic to expect a lateral move into a new job market, especially at your former level, so you’re willing to start a little lower down the ladder to get established with your new career.

Also, taking a job you’re overqualified for may make sense if you’re trying to get your foot in the door with a particular company. In this instance, it’s a strategic decision; get hired for a lower-level position so you can work your way up to the job you’re really qualified for.

Why Being Overqualified Might Be a Real Issue

You might think that being overqualified for a job is a good thing, but many companies feel otherwise. There are several reasons why.

First, if you’re overqualified for a job, the company may be afraid that you’ll get bored and leave. Employers want employees to feel challenged, and if you’re unchallenged in a lower-level job, you might become disenchanted and quit. That’s not a good outcome.

The company may also think that this is just a temporary position for you, and you won’t stick around for long. Most companies want to hire employees for the long-term and don’t want to invest their time in someone who’s apt to leave when something better comes along. (And if you’re genuinely overqualified, sometime better will eventually come along.)

A potential employer might shy away from an overqualified applicant simply because they can’t pay you enough – or think that they can’t. If you have more experience or education than the position requires, they may think that your salary expectations are higher, too.

Other employees may think that if you’re applying for a job for which you’re obviously overqualified, you may not understand what the position entails. They may believe that you think the job is more important than it really is and dismiss your application for that reason.

In addition, some less experienced or insecure managers might fear hiring someone so obviously overqualified. This kind of manager doesn’t want to be challenged by someone who might be able to do his job – and possibly better. He just wants someone to hunker down and follow orders, and an overqualified employee might be more prone to asking questions and giving opinions. In this scenario, an underqualified follower might be preferred over a more capable, more challenging applicant.

Similarly, a hiring manager might think that you won’t be happy working for a manager who has less experience than you do. Let’s face it, people are prone to complain about their bosses, especially if they think they know more than the boss does – and if you’re overqualified, you just might. Companies don’t want a lot of tension in the work environment, and this situation could result in undue stress for all involved.

How to Address Being Overqualified for a Job

What can you do if you’re told or if you think you’re overqualified for a given job? It’s all a matter of picking and choosing what information you highlight and reassuring the hiring manager that you’re still a good fit. You need to address any potential issues head-on.

For example:

  • If they think you’ll be bored with this job, tell them you won’t. Let them know that you’ve had enough of high-pressure positions and are actually looking for something with less stress and responsibility.
  • If they think this is just a temporary position for you, assure them that you’re making a long-term commitment – and you won’t jump ship at a better opportunity.
  • If they think that salary is an issue, make it clear that you’re okay with the lower pay for this position.
  • If they think you don’t understand the parameters of the job, make it clear that you know exactly what the job entails and that you’re fine with that.

You can also deal with being overqualified on your resume. Make sure you tailor your resume for the specific position, emphasizing those skills and experiences that directly apply. Deliberately leave off advanced qualifications – included advanced degrees – that don’t relate to the job at hand. You can even leave off some prior jobs. Deemphasize high-level job titles and descriptions and avoid including past salary levels if you can. And use simple language that better fits the level of the job for which you’re applying.

You can also deal with being overqualified for a job in your cover letter. Explain why this is the job you really want and why you’re the best choice for it. You can also do this during the interview itself. Remember to sell yourself – and don’t oversell your skills and experience.

Let Mapertunity Help You Match Your Qualifications to the Job

Mapertunity is the world’s first fully transparent, interactive job map. Whatever your qualifications, we can help you find the right job in the right location. It’s what we do.

Whatever type of job you’re looking for, contact us at Mapertunity! We’re here to help.

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Lonnie Ayers

On a mission to help every job seeker find a job. Co-inventor of mapertunity, the most advanced graphical job search tool in existence. A 21st century tool for jobs and businesses.

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