job seekers overqualified

Most job seekers will have been unsuccessful in securing a role at some point in their careers. The feelings of disappointment, anger, or self-loathing can be crushing, particularly if it was a position you’d aspired to for some time, or put a lot of time and energy into pursuing.

When this rejection comes for a role that you feel especially well-qualified for, it’s easy to be left feeling confused and disheartened. Why didn’t I land this role? I could do it with my eyes closed. Don’t they realise how lucky they would be to have me?

This raises a thought-provoking question… is it possible to be rejected for having too many qualifications or too much experience?

The simple answer is yes… for certain positions.

I thought it would be interesting to delve into this and look at what employers may think when they see an overly-qualified candidate, and what you can do as a job seeker to satisfy some of these concerns.

What do employers REALLY think?

A number of thoughts may be swirling around a hiring manager’s brain when they see someone with a wealth of experience and a list of qualifications as long as your arm!

These include:

  • The employer can see you moving on quickly. They may foresee you’re using this role as a stepping-stone to bigger and better things. Do they really want to put the time and energy into recruiting and training you for you to move on in 6-12 months?
  • They’re concerned about meeting your salary expectations. The more qualified you are, the greater your earning potential. Employers are aware of this, and their concerns over your salary expectations could lead to out and out rejection at the initial stage of the process.
  • Will you be willing to do all the tasks assigned to you? An employer may be worried that certain tasks feel beneath your skills and experience, and you’ll only want to focus your time and energy on ‘important tasks’. They may also be concerned that you’ll get bored easily.
  • There may be a perception that you won’t fit into the existing team or that you’ll resent being managed by less experienced supervisors.
  • You may be viewed as a threat to the existing management!

What can you do?

For whatever reason, you may find yourself applying for a role where you feel overqualified. So, here are five steps you can take to try and reassure a hiring manager you’re a good fit for their organisation… and hopefully land the role!

1. Cover their concerns in your CV, covering letter, or job application

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room! Try settling any concerns upfront in your CV, covering letter or job application.

Explain your motivations for applying for the role, including how it matches your lifestyle and career priorities. For example, are you looking for a more flexible role or one that enables you to have a better work-life balance? Do you want to return to a point in your earlier career that you particularly enjoyed? Are you transitioning to part-time employment due to family circumstances?

Employers aren’t mind readers, so clearly explain your position to help them understand your motivations for applying for the role.

2. Tailor your CV

Usually, I’d recommend drawing as much attention to your highest qualifications, skills, and experience in your CV. But in this case, it may be worth downplaying some of the sections that employers may see as ‘too much’ for the role.

Instead, focus on your core competencies and relevant experience, which make you suitable for the role. You don’t want to seem overqualified, but you need to make sure you’re qualified all the same.

3. Seek out the right companies

Some companies are comfortable hiring overqualified candidates. You may just have to do a little research to find them! Spend some time connecting with companies via LinkedIn or speak to them directly to find out if your skills and experience are likely to be a suitable fit within their organisation.

4. Prepare for the interview

As with your CV, covering letter or job application, try to pre-empt any tricky questions that may delve into your overqualified status and prepare suitable answers.

Also, make sure you’ve plenty of scenarios prepared that clearly demonstrate your relevant experience and core competencies.

For more information about how to prepare for an interview, take a look at my previous blog.

5. Be mindful of your attitude

You may feel like you can do this role with your eyes shut and that any company would be lucky to have you, but don’t let this over-confidence come across to the employer! Instead, remember to remain gracious, humble and polite during the application AND interview process. 

Are you a job seeker looking for some help to secure your next role?

For more information about how I can support you, contact me to book a free, no-obligation 30-minute consultation.

It would also be great to connect with you on LinkedIn and Facebook!