How To Overcome Being “Overqualified”

How To Overcome Being "Overqualified"

When you’re looking for a job, one of the issues that may come up is the idea of being overqualified for a position. In many cases, this seems like a completely ridiculous concept, after all, what employer doesn’t want a very capable employee? In truth, hiring managers are usually looking to fill a niche, a gap in an existing team, or have an idea of who they’re looking for. If you don’t fit into that pre-approved concept, then there is a certain amount of worry that you won’t fit in at all.

Over-qualification can happen to anyone and being labeled as such is often the result of an unusual career decision or circumstances that caused you to follow a less than predictable path. Whether you’ve come back to work after a long bout of parenthood or chose to specialize rather than ‘move up the ladder’, it can be pointlessly challenging to get your next position. The good news is that you can overcome the label of ‘overqualified’ with a little preparation.

What is “Overqualified” Anyway?

When a company says they can’t accept you because you are overqualified, this is almost never really what they mean. The term is more of a pseudo-complimentary code phrase that means that an employer isn’t sure if you’ll be a good fit for the position due to something unusual in your resume. Unfortunately, resumes tend to be flat, context-less documents. Your resume doesn’t mention that your spouse had to move for work or that you’re an amazing lead but don’t have a taste for management. However, certain facts are warning signs for hiring managers.

  • Long gap in work
  • Returning to a lower position
  • Long time in your previous position
  • Unusually high previous salary
  • Possible work desperation

Anyone of these traits either seen or suspected can cause an ‘overqualified’ label because the company is really worried that you will either be useless or demanding when they’re looking for a team player.

Explain Early

The first and best way to avoid being pre-labeled ‘overqualified’ is to offer an explanation early. While tradition suggests that you leave any ‘negative’ details out of the hiring process unless it’s brought up by an interviewer, some issues need to be addressed early and clearly or you risk being politely pushed aside. The best way to cover your bases is with a brief synopsis of your circumstances in the cover letter. If you touch on the reasons very shortly in a friendly and impersonal tone, the recruiters and hiring managers will have an explanation floating in their minds when the ‘suspicious’ resume patterns become evident. This can prevent any misunderstandings about your capabilities and attitude. If the issue is not something that can safely be mentioned in the cover letter, make sure to mention it at your first reasonable opportunity during the interview process.

Clarify Your Priorities

Finally, even if a hiring manager understands your circumstances, they may still be worried about your attitude and expectations. High salary, in particular, is a problem for employers because they don’t want to set an unsustainable or unjustified precedent with their own position and pay structure. If you did achieve a high rate of pay for your position in a previous job for whatever reason, make it clear that you’re okay with a slight pay drop to industry standard if you get the job. They can realize and pay you for your amazing skills once they get to know you.

For people whose careers have not followed a standard path, the confusion can easily cause hiring managers to paint you with the ‘overqualified’ brush and pass you over for desirable positions. To avoid this situation, make clever use of your resume and early communications to clear up any misunderstandings and establish that what you care about is the job and that you’re more than willing to be a team player. Enthusiasm for the work is often the most persuasive argument, as every employer loves passionately dedicated employees. For more professional resume tips to land a job in Hawaii, contact us today!

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