How To Land A Job You’re Overqualified For In 4 Steps

by | Finding A Job, Interviewing, Resumes & LinkedIn

What does it mean to be “overqualified” for a job? This ambiguous reason for rejecting applicants is talked about often, which can be confusing when you’re looking for your next role. Continue reading to uncover:

  • What it means to be overqualified for a position.
  • How to know if you’re overqualified for a job.
  • Steps you can take to land a role you’re overqualified for.

What Does It Mean To Be Overqualified For A Job?

Let’s begin by diving into what it means to be “overqualified” for a job. While the definition of overqualified will vary depending on the person using it, recruiters and hiring managers rely on the term to describe someone they believe has too much experience, education, or skills for the role they’re attempting to fill.

[Read: 6 Powerful Strategies For Overcoming Ageism In The Job Search]

With this definition in mind, you might be asking yourself, “Can I be overqualified for a job?” Being overqualified for a job usually means a prospective employer thinks one or more of the following about you (even if it’s untrue):

  • You’re overeducated and won’t be challenged in the role.
  • Your experience and skills exceed the company’s needs, so you’ll quickly become bored and look for a better opportunity.
  • Your salary expectations and total compensation exceed the organization’s budget.

How Do You Know If You’re Overqualified For A Job?

But how do you know if you might be perceived as overqualified by a prospective employer? Here are a few signs a potential recruiter may think you’re overqualified:

  • Your current or recent responsibilities far exceed those outlined in the job posting.
  • Your current title is several notches above the one you’re targeting. (Note: As a tech career coach, I recognize titles vary greatly among companies, and recruiters know this too, yet they likely won’t consider you for roles multiple levels below your current one.)
  • Your years of experience significantly exceed the required and preferred expectations. (For example: The job posting calls for 3 years of experience and you possess 10+ years of experience.)
  • You possess advanced education when the role doesn’t ask for a college degree.

Again, remember that every situation is unique, and you’ll need to use discernment in deciding whether to apply for a role, keeping in mind that you might be perceived as overqualified.

4 Steps To Get A Job You’re Overqualified For

Now, how do you get a job you’re overqualified for?

There’s a lot you can’t control — like how a prospective employer perceives you. Your responsibility as a job seeker is to focus on what’s in your control — like how you package your experience, skills, and education.

Let’s break this topic down further. The following are four steps you can take if you believe you might be perceived as overqualified.

1. Target the right positions.

For starters, when you’re worried about being overqualified, you want to take a step and make sure you’re targeting the right roles in the first place.

Instead of targeting any role that you’re remotely qualified for, which is a common job searching mistake, you want to target those positions where you meet a vast majority, or all, of the requirements in the job posting.

At the same time, you want to pass on roles that simply don’t make sense based on your background. You can think of being overqualified as being like hiring a surgeon to remove a splinter, it’s excessive, and the employer likely has more appropriate choices.

[Read: 4 Steps To Create The Ultimate Dream Company List]

2. Identify the benefits of being overqualified.

Next, rather than hide the fact that you’re punching below your weight class, shine a light on the benefits of hiring you, like being able to hit the ground running.

Being overqualified can feel like a barrier to landing a new job, but you can also position it as a strength and differentiator that sets you apart from other candidates.

Take a moment now to list all the benefits of hiring someone overqualified, as you’ll use it in the subsequent steps to craft your resume and cover letter.

[Read: How To Stop Selling Yourself Short In Your Career]

3. Be intentional with your resume and cover letter.

Once you identify the benefits of being overqualified, you’ll want to write your resume to intentionally shine a positive light on your background, rather than hiding it.

Most often, this looks like drawing the reader’s attention to your most relevant and impactful experiences while consolidating and summarizing your less relevant ones.

Let’s say you held an early career position at a Big 4 consulting firm that’s less relevant yet still helps you in your current role as a product leader. You might consider truncating your experience to only include the firm’s name, your title, and your dates of employment, along with a 1–2 sentence summary highlighting the relevance.

[Read: “How Many Bullet Points Per Job On Resume?” Answered]

You want to be strategic when you craft your cover letter too. As I’ve shared previously, your cover letter is an opportunity to articulate what sets you apart from other candidates, not blend in.

4. Continue to shine throughout your interview.

Lastly, once you make it to the interview room, whether in person or virtual, you’ll of course need to back up the claims you made in your resume and cover letter.

However, if you’re worried about being perceived as potentially overqualified, I also recommend that you quickly — and repeatedly — differentiate yourself from other applicants throughout the interview process.

You might consider using language like:

  • “What sets me apart from other human resources leaders is…”
  • “I’m unique from other managers in the way that I…”
  • “My approach to product management is distinct because…”

Your goal is for the interviewer to be able to easily place you in the “heck yes” or “heck no” pile, not the “heck maybe” pile.

Conclusion: Being Overqualified For A Job

Please remember that while you can’t change your education, experience, or skills, you get to choose how you package and present them to employers. Take time to find the right positions, craft a powerful resume and cover letter that communicate your fabulousness, and then back up your claims in your interview so you land the role. You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).

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