If you're getting rejected from jobs because you're overqualified, take these simple steps.
At first, being too qualified for a job sounds pretty great. You can tick off all the requirements on the job listing — and more — so a hiring manager should be thrilled to see your resume roll through, right?
Not exactly. Sometimes being overqualified for a job can work against you. It may raise some red flags for recruiters and hiring managers, causing them to skip over your resume before you even get a chance to make your case in an interview.
Use this guide to help you figure out what to do if you're overqualified for a job.
Why is being overqualified for a job a problem?
When a recruiter or hiring manager tells you you're overqualified for a job, you may be left scratching your head: Why would that matter if I can do the job? But the truth is, overqualified job candidates sometimes scare prospective employers. Here are a few reasons why:
They assume you'll ask for too much money. To avoid wasting everyone's time with an interview, employers may assume you have high salary expectations and not willing to take a pay cut. They are inclined to put you in the “no” pile.
They're worried you're using the job as a temporary fix, especially if you've been laid off, until you find your ideal senior-level role. That means a high potential turnover, which costs companies time and money.
They're concerned you'll get bored since you won't be challenged with a lower-level role that won't match your experience level.
They think you might have trouble doing certain tasks or taking direction from a manager, who could potentially have less experience than you and this can make you feel like you don't belong.
At the end of the day, companies want to hire an employee who's likely to stick around and be satisfied, and if you're overqualified, they could assume you'll be leaving sooner than later.
Common signs you're overqualified for a job
Before you apply to job postings, it's important to understand if you're actually overqualified. That way you can address these concerns in your resume (more on that below). Here's how to tell if you might be overqualified for a job:
Refer back to the job description and see if you meet and exceed all the requirements listed. Now, if you meet every single requirement, this could mean you're overqualified, especially if you've been in the field a while. An employer may assume you need a position that allows you to climb the career ladder — not move laterally.
If you don't know the base salary for the position you've applied for, use a salary insights tool like Glassdoor to help determine if the position pays less than your current role.
You thought the interview process was a breeze — including the skills assessment. For instance, if you applied for a writing role and received a writing assessment that took all of 10 minutes to complete, that's a sure sign you're overqualified.
If you leave the interview feeling like you absolutely nailed it, that's great — but it could also be a sign you're a little too comfortable.
If the company has a LinkedIn profile, take a look at the employees who'd likely be working on your team. What's their experience look like? Now, where do you stand?
This takes a bit of evaluation on your part, but if you take these steps you can usually see more clearly if you're overqualified for a job.
How job seekers should address being overqualified for a job on their resume
If you're actually overqualified for a job but you're interested in the position, there are ways to get ahead of this objection by tweaking your resume. Follow these simple steps:
1. Tailor your resume to the job
You should be doing this with every job application, but when you're overqualified, you have to tailor your resume to the job. Rather than emphasizing your leadership or managerial skills, highlight other skills in the Skills Section of your resume that were noted in the job description. Years of experience is also another point that overqualified candidates should address when tailoring their resumes accordingly.
Some advice out there will tell you to delete specific higher-level positions from your resume, but there's no need to do that, especially if it's recent experience. Stay honest, simply tailoring your resume to better fit the job description if you are interested in the job.
2. Use your resume summary to your advantage
Long gone are the days of writing a resume objective statement (thank goodness), but your resume should still have a career summary where you highlight your relevant qualifications. Think of it as an elevator pitch — but for your resume. Job seekers should make sure to match the details in the job description.
In the career summary of your resume, you can briefly explain why you're looking to transition to the role in which you're applying, especially if you're leaving a more senior-level role. For example, maybe being a manager has taken away from what you actually love doing — creating — so you want to get back into a role that allows you to flex your creative muscles daily instead.
3. Delete the dates on your education
Many times, there's no need to list the date you graduated from college or received your degrees. This not only opens you up to potential ageism, but it also gives the recruiter or hiring manager an opportunity to quickly write you off as overqualified.
Just because you graduated 10 years ago doesn't mean you have to be in a senior-level position. It's best to just delete the dates on your education so no one can make a snap judgment.
4. Lean on your cover letter
Outside your resume, your cover letter is a great place to explain why you're interested in a job — even if you are potentially overqualified. Use your cover letter to fill in the blanks of your resume and explain your career arc, your experiences, and your qualifications.
You don't necessarily need to say, “I know I'm overqualified,” but use this one-page letter to address any potential objections head-on.
Next steps: Continue the conversation in your interview
If you're able to effectively address that, “Yes, I'm overqualified, but here's why I'm a good fit for the job” in your resume and cover letter, then you may land the interview, which will give you another opportunity to ease any concerns.
For instance, if an interviewer directly asks you about being overqualified, you can ask why they think that and address their concerns point by point. But be careful not to downplay your experience. Instead, tailor it to the job and explain why you're interested in it and why you'd stick around.
If you continue to get the same feedback about being overqualified, it may be time to rethink your job search or give your resume a bit of a heavier edit. Ultimately, patience and persistence will pay off, so keep at it.
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