Articles for Professionals

Overqualified? Keep It Real.


You’d think it’d be easy to get a job if you are well qualified, or even overqualified, for an opportunity.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. We’ve seen many examples where a candidate with extensive industry experience – including at a management or ownership level – has suddenly found themselves struggling to get a lesser role in another facility. Understandably, such a situation can be quite demoralising.

Why would an employer not leap at a chance to hire a super qualified / experienced candidate?

  • They worry the candidate will be “too expensive.”
  • An overqualified applicant is likely just holding out for a better opportunity.
  • An overqualified candidate could become bored with the job.
  • It’s possible a hiring manager feels threatened by more qualified candidates.

How can overqualified job seekers address these concerns?

Any job application should reflect the role. There is no value in sending a couple of pages outlining your success as a national manager when the role calls for a focus on successful front line interaction and being part of a team.

If you have a wealth of industry experience, you should have a solid network of contacts. Use these networks to your advantage. If you have the opportunity to talk to someone rather than simply send in a CV, it gives you the chance to outline why you are looking for a role that might be considered beneath you. If you can convince new contacts that your experience makes you ideal for a specific role, you’re in with a fighting chance.

Referrals are always going to be a more successful method of landing a job interview than simply firing off a CV or applying for jobs with a dozen other applicants.

Maybe there’s a good reason you’re applying for jobs similar to what you did 5 or 10 years ago. If you’re purposefully ramping down your responsibilities, make a point of explaining that to the recruiting manager. On your cover letter and in conversations with hiring managers and networking contacts, explain why, at this stage of your career, your focus is on things more important than a high salary. Identify positives, such as work-life balance (if appropriate) or the opportunity to work for a group with a good reputation or an opportunity to enjoy a role with less responsibility.

If asked for a salary requirement, make sure to provide a salary range appropriate to the job. No matter what you’re worth and what you think you can achieve, every job has an upper limit. Looking for remuneration beyond this will scuttle your efforts. Give good reasons for wanting the job that don’t make you sound desperate.

When you have a chance to speak to someone about the opportunity, make it clear that you plan to stay in the job for a certain amount of time. If you are committed to this type of job, make it clear that the opportunity is a destination, not a jumping off point for you.

It’s always up to the candidate to make a case for why they’re a good fit, but it’s even more important for the overqualified. Study the job description and be able to point out exactly why you’re a good person for the job. Make a convincing case that this job, at this stage of your career, is exactly what you want to do.

It can be easy to think that an employer will leap at the chance to have you on their team. Avoid falling victim to your own hubris. Recognise that employers are not looking for the best in the market, they’re looking for the best for their role.


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