Here’s the scenario: You see an interesting job posting online. You think to yourself, “I have this experience, and I could be great in this role.” You’re considering applying for the position, but then you pause and reflect, “Wait, what will they think? I did this two steps back in my career. I’m overqualified!”
Believe it or not, this is a common dilemma for many job seekers. Talented individuals go through many stages in their careers, and at times, they find value in taking one or multiple steps back. People consider this scenario for a variety of reasons. This post is not designed to answer the question why, but instead to provide direction on the question: how does someone who’s overqualified garner strong consideration from hiring managers?
First, it’s important to understand why a company would shy away from overqualified candidates. There are many potential reasons, but I’ve listed a few commons thoughts below.
- The person is too far removed from doing the hands on work required for the role.
- This is a temporary step back for the person applying and as soon as an opportunity at their level emerges, they will leave.
- There’s no way this person would be willing to take direction to do a job they used to supervise. They’ll feel the role is beneath them.
- They won’t be willing to learn how to do the job “our way” because they’ll insist that their process is superior.
These are just examples of thoughts going through a hiring manager’s head. None of these assumptions may apply to you, but they exist nonetheless. Your goal should be to justify your motivation and interest in the role and, to the best of your ability, persuade them that you are the best person for the job.
A few things that may help you in your mission:
- Instead of a traditional resume format, consider one that bullets your skills. You’ll want to list your places of previous employment as well as titles, of course, but lead with your skills. Focus primarily on the skills that the job posting requires and how you succeeded in those areas.
- In your bullet points, be sure to highlight your unique accomplishments and provide some quantifiable details related to those accomplishments. Example: As an accounts receivable clerk with ABC Company, I successfully reduced our 90 day accounts by 80% within a 6-month period bringing over 75 customers into current status.
- Use your objective to communicate a viable message to the company as to why you are looking to make this change in your career and why it would benefit them to consider you. Be brief but honest. Do your best to dispel their concerns about your motivation.
- Utilize your network. There is nothing more powerful than a referral. Think about how many times you’ve asked friends, family, and co-workers to recommend a store, service, product, etc. People like helping other people. If you know someone associated with the company you’re applying to, ask them to put in a good word for you. You can deliver a message in a resume all day long, but having a neutral party speak on your behalf can speak volumes.
In summary, being overqualified does not mean you are not the perfect fit for the role. What it may mean is that you need to take additional steps to help that hiring manager understand why they would be doing themselves a disservice to not call you.
Written by: John Riddle
John joined the Godshall team, having previously spent 9 years in sales and management as well as 4 years in recruiting. After earning his Bachelor of Business Administration from James Madison University, John spent the last 13 years working and living in Washington, D.C. He most recently managed a recruiting team in the D.C. office for SPARKS primarily supporting HR and administrative roles. John is a member of the professional team at Godshall and recruits for administrative, accounting, legal, Banking, and HR. A recent transplant to Greenville, John moved here with his wife and two sons. His wife, Laura, is a native of Greenville and Wofford College graduate.