Every week I encounter jobseekers who despair that they are not being hired because they are overqualified. In some cases it is true — they are definitely over qualified for jobs they are applying for — but in others it isn’t. In some situations, the jobseeker has no choice but to apply for jobs at a lower level because the type of senior roles they seek are not readily available.
An overqualified candidate is a concern for employers. They often think you’ll want their job, are using the position as a stop-gap measure and won’t stay long, or in some cases, think you’ll take the role as a foot in the door and then try and take over.
Most jobseekers in this situation ask if their background and achievements have to be ‘dumbed down’ so they appear more suited to the role and don’t attract the overqualified label.
The answer is no.
What you do need to do is target your application to the job. Rather than stripping your resume, focus on emphasising aspects of your background that make you a good fit for the role. Take the employer on a journey, systematically showing them how you can meet the needs they outlined in the advert.
Try not to appear desperate. You might be badly in need of a job, but firing off applications at lightning speed won’t help. Slow down and target your applications.
When looking for work, you should network more than applying to advertised positions.
- Use LinkedIn to find companies and contacts and then start networking.
- Ask your existing contacts for introductions and/or referrals.
- Research the employer and then package your skills, experience and results, as well as the value you offer, and approach them directly.
If you encounter a situation where the employer tells you they think you’re overqualified for the job, you need to ask the question
‘What is your concern about me being overqualified?’
The employer then has to state their reasons. This gives you a chance to overcome those objections. For instance, the employer says
‘We have concerns about your longevity in the role and ultimately wanting a more senior role that we wouldn’t be able to offer’.
You can then respond
‘I understand your concern, but let me assure you, I no longer want a senior role. I applied to this job because of the [insert what suits] component of the role, the thing I like to do the most and that I do the best’.
It won’t always work, but at least you have the chance to pitch your case.
Some other tips for overcoming the overqualified label:
- Don’t overwhelm employers with information. You may have done a lot, but include only that which is relevant to the role you’re applying for.
- Demonstrate the reasons why you’d be a good employee. What are the benefits of hiring you?
- Don’t talk about ‘me, me, me’ – demonstrate team work and a willingness to contribute at multiple levels.
- Demonstrate your ability to take and follow instructions/direction. This is particularly important for mature jobseekers and those who have held managerial roles.
Above all, don’t give up. Concentrate on showing the employer how you will help them, why they need you, and the benefits that will flow from hiring you.
© Michelle Lopez, Owner/Career Consultant