Overcoming Overqualified

September 22, 2011 by Careerminds

Jennifer Fry
Careerminds Consultant


It’s that same old line that experienced professionals hear repeatedly: “You’re overqualified for the position.” But what does that mean?

Well, more often than not, the simple translation is, “You cost too much money.” Hiring managers and business leaders assume that applicants with extensive experience, particularly in upper level positions expect higher salaries than those with less experience. Consequently, they often decide that there’s a better return on investment to hire a less experienced applicant and train him/her without having to put out quite so much money up front. Additionally, supervisors may fear that highly experienced employees will grow bored of their positions or leave the company once a better opportunity presents itself. Again, it is the less experienced hires that presumably promise greater longevity with the company.

So what if I’m overqualified? I really want this job!

Some experienced professionals may be attracted to a position based on qualities other than salary. For them, being overqualified may not affect their loyalty to the company or their commitment to the job, and they’re willing to take a reduction in pay if it means working in a position they truly enjoy.

And, in the current sagging economy, many displaced workers are willing to accept lower paying jobs in their field if only for the sake of being employed and earning a reduced paycheck.

Whatever your reason for wanting the position, there are a few tricks you might try in order to conquer the “overqualified” label and hopefully get the job offer you really want.

  • Tailor your cover letter to the particular position, and focus only on what experience is relevant. If nothing else, this will help get you into the interview where you will have the opportunity to further explain your reasons for wanting the job despite your extensive experience. (This can be much easier face-to-face, so use your cover letter to get you in the door.)
  • Focus more on your skills and abilities rather than previous job titles. Titles such as “supervisor” or “manager” may raise red flags among those in charge of hiring; so be sure to direct their attention to the skills you can offer over the titles you held.
  • Demonstrate the loyalty you’ve displayed in the past, and express your interest and enthusiasm for this position. Both of these tactics are meant to ensure an interviewer that while you may be considered overqualified, you will be no less committed to this position because of it.

Regarding salary, there are several courses you might want to take:

  • Be upfront with the interviewer. Explain that your salary needs or expectations have changed since you left your previous position.
  • Reveal the financial advantages of hiring you. Point out specific instances in which you were responsible for saving money, boosting productivity, or making financial gains for your previous employers.

Whatever you do, make it clear that you’re aware of their possible concerns and reassure them that salary should not deter them from hiring you. As a matter of fact, in today’s weak economy, some employers may take advantage of an influx of “overqualified” applicants who come in with top skills and experience but who are willing to work for less; thus, job seekers who may typically be considered “seasoned” can also take advantage.

Go into a job search knowing what employers are looking for, how you compare to their expectations, and how to address potential problems posed by your level of experience. By learning why employers are hesitant to hire “overqualified” candidates, you can better equip yourself to quell their concerns.

Careerminds provides scalable, strategic solutions to organizations seeking affordable, web-based outplacement services. Using a Web 2.0 e-learning platform that delivers affordable, online career transition services, Careerminds provides a high-tech and high-touch blend of on-demand career transition education supported by senior-level career consultants to help displaced workers reenter the workforce quickly.



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