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What to do when you’re told you’re overqualified for a job

Sometimes having all the experience—and then some—can make it harder to land the position you want.

By Kate Ashford, Monster contributor


about why you’re passionate about the
work rather than the fact that the job
requires less travel or offers a shorter

eing told you’re overqualified for a
job can feel like someone telling you
you’re too awesome to date. Come again?
You’ve got the experience of multiple
jobs and years of workplace know-how
under your belt—how can that possibly
be an impediment to getting a job?
“This shouldn’t be a barrier [to employment], but often is,” says Cheryl
Santiago, a career transition coach at
Hiring managers might figure you’re
using this job opportunity as a temporary
gig until a more senior position opens up
elsewhere, or that you expect to earn a
salary that’s commensurate with your experience. But just because a hiring manager thinks you look too good on paper
doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.
Overcome your over-qualification
with these tactics:

“The false assumption with overqualified candidates is that they will
only take this job while they continue to
search for the ‘right job,’” says Donna
Shannon, president of Personal Touch
Career Services. You’ll put everyone’s
mind at ease if you stress that you’re in it
for the long haul.
Again, use your cover letter or email
introduction to explain why you want this
exact job, and be upfront with the hiring
manager during the interview that you
understand this may be a concern—but
that it’s one they need not worry about.



In your cover letter, address your
experience mismatch outright. “Say you
know you have certain skills or tenure
that are above and beyond what the position calls for, but that you are looking
for an additional type of challenge or
opportunity,” says Alexandra Levit, a
business speaker and author of Blind
Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t
Afford to Believe.
Not addressing the elephant in the
room is a mistake, Levit says. “You
aren’t making clear why the job in question is actually a good fit at this point in
your life,” she says, “and all the hiring
manager can think is, ‘It doesn’t make
sense that this person is applying.’”
Focus on your interest in the job or
company itself. Employers will be more
likely to take a chance on you if you talk


One of the hurdles of bringing so
much knowledge to the table is that interviewers expect you to want a commensurate paycheck. In most cases, they won’t
augment the salary just because you have
some extra know-how, so be prepared to
take a pay cut if you want a job you could
have taken several years ago.
“If the company asks about salary
requirements, make sure to mention that
you are flexible if the requested salary
is less than what you made previously,”
says Joseph Vijay Ingam, head career
coach at Interview SOS in Los Angeles.
“Never make it seem that the position is
beneath you.”


Do you know someone who works for
the company, or someone who knows the

Photo provided by Getty Images

interviewer? Use that to your advantage.
Whenever there’s an imbalance between
what an employer is looking for and what
you have to offer—be that too much or
too little experience—knowing someone
on the inside can be the key to unlocking


Think about what your years of
experience bring to the position, even if
recruiters aren’t specifically looking for
it. Instead of “overqualified,” view yourself as highly qualified with something
extra to offer the company.
“My client positioned herself as
bench strength for promotion when a
next-level job opened up and reminded
them that she would be there to train her
replacement,” Svei says.
Emphasize that you are plenty capable of doing the job in question, and that
your abundance of qualifications means

you can assume greater responsibilities
in less time than it would take to train
someone else.


A hiring manager might think a
candidate with your experience will
consider some of the tasks associated
with the position to be beneath them. If
you’re in a supervisory role, one subtle
way to address this is to take on tasks
you might otherwise assign to others
and list them on your resume.
“That way, prospective hiring
managers will see that you aren’t so
far removed from those [lower-level]
responsibilities as they may have
previously thought,” says Lori Rassas,
a career coach and author of Over the
Hill But Not Over the Cliff: 5 Strategies
for 50+ Job-Seekers to Push Past Ageism and Find a Job in the Loyalty-Free


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