Ashley Wilson
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Overqualified for the job?
Last updated: October 1, 2022
Ashley Wilson
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Overqualified for the job?
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If you are applying for a job for which you are overqualified, you may worry that the potential employer won't give you a chance. Sometimes in the hiring process, too much experience can work against you.

When you’re overqualified for an open position, it means you aren’t the ideal fit for the job, either because you have more skills than the job requires or because the position is entry-level and offers low pay — probably lower than someone with your experience should expect.

You might be looking for less responsibility, hours, and stress. Maybe you’re trying to get a foot in the door with a specific company. Or it could be you’re making a career change, and though you have most of the required skills, it can be hard to get a start in a new industry.

Whatever your reason, landing a job below your level of experience can be a challenge, but with a few precautions, you can make yourself the perfect candidate.

Why employers don’t want overqualified applicants

While the thought of an overqualified applicant may seem like a completely bogus idea, many HR teams and recruiters around the globe treat it as a real concept. Why? These employers worry that overqualified job seekers won’t fulfill roles adequately in the long term. They may make assumptions about your reasons for applying, how long you’ll stay, or other factors, and you’ll have to persuade them that you’ll be a good fit.

Forward-thinking employers value these individuals and want them on their team (and may even adjust positions or budgets to accommodate them). It just makes sense to bring on highly qualified individuals for any open position.

But if you think about it from a concerned employer's perspective, it makes sense that they could be worried for several reasons.

An employer may assume that an overqualified candidate will:

  • Get bored with the role and simply leave — Employees who aren’t challenged and engaged in a position are more likely to leave. Part of job satisfaction and productivity in any position is a vested interest in outcomes. Higher engagement boosts productivity, safety, and team “mindset.”

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  • Try and move up within the organization ASAP and quit if that’s not possible — An employer may assume you're just looking for a way to make yourself look good by getting promoted through the ranks swiftly. By starting in a position in which you already know how to quickly master, you’ll look for promotion beyond the position in a short time, and the manager will be left to fill the job all over again.

  • Continue to apply elsewhere for positions that match their abilities — You may just want any job while you continue searching for a perfect match. By taking a job an employer sees as “beneath” you, they worry you may only be using their job as a placeholder while you find something more suitable. As soon as that happens, they’re back to where they started.

  • Want a much higher salary than is on the table for the current position — They worry the pay won’t match your expectations, and you’ll leave them for a better-paying job as soon as you find one. Even if you say you’ll accept a lower wage, once you’re forced to live with less money, you might decide you need more.

  • Be difficult to manage — People who have more experience than their superiors don’t always take kindly to being told what to do, especially if they think they know better.

  • Be disengaged and deliver a poor quality of work — If you’re downgrading your career and want less stress, managers might assume that your goal is to simply phone it in for a low-effort paycheck.

Tips for applying to a job for which you’re overqualified

Research the company to see what kind of backgrounds they hire from. If they only hire people with no experience or fresh out of school, they may not be willing to work with anyone with a little experience under their belt.

Start with their company website. Read their About Us or Meet the Team pages to learn what you can about the company culture. This will also give you a concise picture of their hiring practices and overall mission. Have their employees worked their way up? Are managers and executives outside hires? Is there lateral movement within the company?

A company’s social media pages will also offer a glimpse of its culture. Do they value experience, or does it look like they have a high turnover? Do their employees all look young and maybe fresh on the job market? If they are, this employer may be less likely to hire someone who's “overqualified.”

Tailor your resume to each position and company. Don’t use a generic version of your resume to apply for every position. Create a new one designed for each specific job. Leave out information that isn’t directly related to the position, as this calls attention to your overqualification. Play with resume styles to create a tailored resume.

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Write a cover letter that explains your reasons for wanting the position. This is your chance to speak directly to the employer or hiring manager. Their concerns may diminish if they know why you’re willing to take a job below your skill level. If they don’t know your why, they have to fill in the blanks on their own, and the negative reasons usually rise to the top.

Don’t give too many reasons — settle on one or two and explain why you’d be an asset in the position. If you’re looking for less responsibility, give a brief but positive explanation as to why. By showing your reasons in a positive light, you let the employer know you’re excited about the position and that the move is advantageous for you.

How to nail the interview when you’re overqualified

Don’t oversell yourself

During the interview, instead of highlighting all of the accomplishments on your resume, focus specifically on roles and responsibilities that align with the potential position. Be specific and straightforward! The goal is to make yourself appear in line for that position.

Address salary expectations

When you’re overqualified, you'll likely receive a salary reduction, and it’s important to convey to the employer that you’re willing to take one. So, be sure to address the elephant in the room! Make it clear that the role is within an acceptable range for you. For example, if you were a manager in your past position, but you are now looking for an individual contributor role, make it clear you're not expecting a similar salary because you know this function has less responsibility.

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Identify other differentiating aspects that point to a lower salary and what makes this acceptable to you. To an employer considering hiring someone who's overqualified, it comes across as more reasonable when they understand that you’ve considered all the angles of the downgrade. If they think there’s something you didn’t consider, something that might make you come back and ask for more money, they’ll be more reluctant to hire you, or even bring you in for an interview.

Be ready to explain why

During a job interview, expect questions about why you want the job, given your experience level and skills, to come up. This is likely the first question the employer will ask, so having a great answer prepared in advance is very important.

First, acknowledge that you know you're overqualified, and next, provide reasons hiring you benefits the company. This could be that you plan to use your wide range of experience to mentor team members or help when coworkers are out, sick, or on vacation. Think about how being overqualified is an advantage to that company and sell it to them! Hiring you will cost them less money as you’ll need less training, and you’ll save them the time spent training you as well.

Use your experience

When you research the company before applying, determine who they are and where they need assistance. During your interview, show them that you understand their problems and outline what your experience can bring to the organization. You're at an advantage because employers know that hiring someone with more experience means the learning curve for training will be shorter and that someone with more experience at a lower price can greatly benefit them.

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You’re not overqualified. You’re highly qualified!

Just because you’re overqualified doesn’t mean you should put on the brakes and think getting the job can’t or won’t happen. Instead of seeing yourself as overqualified, view yourself as highly qualified with something extra to offer the company! And, of course, avoid thinking/acting like you are "too good" for the role.

Also, be aware that even though you are overqualified for the role, it’s not a guarantee that the job is yours based on your experience. Even though you have all that great experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean you'll land the job on that alone. You'll still need to convince the company of what you can do for them and stand out from other applicants. Show them that you want the job and you’re excited about the opportunity. And ultimately, it's your decision whether you'll accept or decline the job offer.

Ready to start looking for the perfect new job? Jobcase gives you all the tools you need to get hired.

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Ashley Wilson
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Chatur Rasaili

What is iam want job ?

52w
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Erica Williams

I would want more money and possibly i could want the boss job if he makes what i need.

52w
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Heidi Kuban

What I find is that managers will not give me the option of accepting or declining. They assume I would not be interested therefore they remove my right to accept.

52w
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2

Good info but you are making a huge assumption that hiring managers want to hire someone who is overqualified. Often this is not the case no matter how much you undersell yourself.

52w
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1
Vicki Segura

Thanks Ashley for the information. I have worked for all kinds of companies since I was 16 years old. Food service, customer service, sales, delivery driver, Bookkeeper, Answering service, Fraud Investigator for Medicare and Medicaid ect. I have made anywhere from $4.00 an hour to working for just tips to making over 1000,000.00 a year. All I want is a job for extra money because all I get is social security and as you know that doesn't go very far when you have bills to pay. The real problem is that companies don't want to hire you unless you have gotten a COVID shot or you are younger than 50. Well COVID is not going anywhere, it is just like the flu and we as people are going to have to accept that we are going to have to live with COVID for the rest of our lives.

1y
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Nicholas Mervosh

This article is an offer of information for many candidates in the job market with over 20 years of experience. One may need these techniques to be successful in an interview. It is true that most will leave a job they are over qualified for a job more commiserate with pay and experience. When switching to a new career or line of work, the years of experience doesn't apply as you essentially have very little experience in the new career/job. Thanks Ashley!

1y
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1
becky norgord

I find i strange that you can give me advice before meeting me . I don't think you read my resume . This is offensive and I have unsubscribed from this several times please do not contact me again . This is why I went with Indeed of which you pouch names off . DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN

1y
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1
Josiah Evans-White

i still would like a chance to atleast work here.

1y
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1
Percy Deza Chauca

I applied all jobs that you send my, I am BS Marine Engineer, with more than 30 years of experience, I applie to technician in maintenance and no hired.

1y
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taylor spears

What job am I over qualified for?

1y
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