Being Overqualified for a Job
Have you ever been told by an interviewer that you’re overqualified for the job you’re interviewing for? At first, it doesn’t seem to make sense. It’s like someone saying that you’re too good looking to date.
You may think being overqualified gives you a leg up on the competition, but the hiring manager more likely sees it as a reason to NOT hire you.
Let’s look at why employers think this way and what you can do to convince them you are the best person for the job.
How Employers View Overqualified Candidates
The interviewer may have a few questions swirling around their heads if they think you’re overqualified for the position you’re applying for:
- Will you be bored? Your boss wants you to feel challenged and excited about work from day-to-day. Hiring managers may think overqualified candidates will get bored quickly and leave ASAP.
- Are you thinking long-term? If it’s been a while since you worked, then hiring managers think that you may be viewing the job as a temporary gig. It’s simply something to bring in a paycheck while you continue to look for something better.
- Do you have too much ambition? Going for a job that you’re overqualified for can send a signal that you’re too ambitious. Maybe you just want a foot in the door, then the minute you’re hired, you’ll be strategizing about how to land a higher position.
- Or not enough ambition? On the other hand, a hiring manager could be concerned that you have no ambition at all. Maybe you’re just looking for an easy job where you can just mindlessly go about your day.
- Can you take direction? Employers may think that you won’t respect a supervisor who may be less qualified, and possibly younger, than you. They may also wonder if you can go back to being managed if you previously managed others.
- Do you want a higher salary? Part of an employer’s concern may be that you’ll want a salary that matches your level of experience. Chances are, they have a strict hiring budget and don’t have much wiggle room. Why waste time with someone they know they can’t afford?
Now that you know what hiring managers may be thinking, you can speak to those concerns directly when in the interview room.
6 Tips for Interviewing When Overqualified
Try these tips when you’re interested in a position that’s a step down from what you’re currently doing.
- Address it outright. Starting with your cover letter, let the hiring manager know that you’re aware of that you’re qualified for a higher-level position. Then explain why you’re making this career move. Will the position help you learn a specific skill that you’re missing? Will it position you in an industry that you want to be in? Be sure to reiterate all of this when interviewing.
- Sell yourself the right way. Don’t think of yourself as overqualified, but more as a “highly qualified” candidate. Explain that you’ll require virtually no supervision and will be up to speed faster than other candidates. You can even train others and take on greater responsibilities in a shorter period of time.
- Show your passion for the job: Focus on what excites you about the job. Frame the move as a chance to go back to doing what you love. For example, you might say something like: “I wasn’t satisfied managing a team of graphic designers. My passion and strength lie in doing hands-on graphic design, rather than managing.”
- Emphasize your commitment. Tell the hiring manager that you understand why they are concerned you’ll leave the job quickly. But reassure them that you aren’t going anywhere. Provide references who can speak to your commitment level.
- Be prepared for a pay-cut. Tell the recruiter, hiring manager, and anyone who asks that you are willing to take a reduced salary because the job is exactly the type of work you want to be doing.
- Know what not to say. Interested in the job because it’ll reduce your commute, give you more time to spend at home, or be less stressful? Those are all legitimate reasons but keep them to yourself. Focus on the value you will bring to the company, not how your personal life will improve.
6 Tips to Tailor Your Resume
You can increase your chances of getting called for an interview by creating a resume that makes you look more like a candidate that’s suited to the job, rather than an overqualified candidate.
- Focus on skills. Customize your resume to include only the skills and experiences that match the description of the job you want. Remove higher-level skills like managing people, strategizing, or creating budgets.
- Remove jobs. Feel free to remove an entire job or two from your resume if you think it makes you look like an overqualified candidate. Just be prepared to explain any gaps in your resume.
- Re–think your education. Definitely keep your college degree in the education section but consider removing post-college degrees and industry certifications. There’s no need to call out the fact that you have more education than is necessary for the job.
- Add a summary. The resume summary is the ideal place to explain why you’re seeking this position. Transitioning to a new career? Excited to gain experience in a new industry? The summary is the place to say it.
- Keep it simple. The common advice is to use “power words” throughout your resume. For your “I’m not overqualified” version keep the language simple and straightforward.
- Deemphasize titles. Job titles are usually prominent on a resume, but there’s no reason they have to be. Put them in a put the company name on the top line and list titles below.
The Bottom Line on Being Overqualified
There’s no shame in wanting a job that you think you’re overqualified for. It can be less stressful, provide better work/life balance, and enable you to do more of what you’re passionate about. Only you know where you want your career path to lead, and only you know what jobs will get you there.
Maria Gold is a Content Manager/Writer for Empire Resume. She is dedicated to helping educate and motivate people with the latest career articles and job search advice. Her interests range from writing to programming and design. She is also passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology.