Getting over the “overqualified” hurdle

Bookmark and Share

In this tough job market, you may feel the need to take a job that is below your skill level just to keep working. The problem is, potential employers are telling you, “You're overqualified for the position.”


While your extensive experience in your field would typically bode well for you, in an economic downturn the job market is more competitive – there's an influx of job seekers and fewer jobs to be had. This can be great news for organizations looking to hire top talent, but it can also send up a red flag. At the top of a hiring manager's list of concerns is that overqualified candidates will become bored in the position quickly and be difficult to retain as soon as something better comes their way.


Here are a few things you can do as a job seeker to put prospective employers' fears to rest:


  • Tone down your resume. If you are going for an interview that requires 2-3 years of experience in a certain skill area and you have 5-7, you will want to simplify your resume. Focus on the skills that are mentioned in the job description and speak to your experience in those areas. Be sure to downplay other experiences not mentioned in the job posting.

  • Get the interview. When sending your resume, be sure to include a cover letter that explains your reason for pursuing the position. Perhaps you are looking to get back to doing what you enjoyed before being promoted to the next level or maybe you want to reduce your stress level at this juncture in your career. It is important to highlight why taking this step back is important to you and your overall job satisfaction, as well as what it means to prospective employers.

  • Prepare your response. It's a virtual guarantee that you will hear something along the lines of, “You seem overqualified for this position. I am concerned you may grow bored in this role.” Rather than saying you are willing to take anything in this economy, highlight how your experience will make you an asset to the company and, when the economy starts to turn around, you look forward to being able to contribute further to the growth of their organization by taking on more responsibilities. Show what you can do for the organization both now and in the future with your skills, industry knowledge and enthusiasm. Be sure to go into the interview with a strategy in place and practice what you will say when confronted with this concern.

  • Be flexible with compensation. If asked if you will accept a decrease in salary, focus on the positive. Say you are willing to take a pay cut in exchange for other benefits, such as working for a strong, stable company, a great work environment, flexibility, the opportunity learning new skills, or whatever the benefit to you may be. You can also focus on ways in which you can save the employer money by helping to mentor less experienced workers which, in turn, will help the organization with retention and their overall succession plan.

  • Call attention to loyalty. If your employment history demonstrates that you are a loyal employee, this is a great way to show future employers that you are reliable and not going to leave as soon as a better opportunity presents itself. Let them know you are interested in learning the business and contributing your knowledge to their organization. Your dedication to previous employers is a great way to put to rest any concerns about you fleeing for a better offer.

  • Sell yourself! You have great experience, so be sure to demonstrate how that experience will benefit the organization both now and in the future. Hiring managers want to see that you are committed to the job. It is a tremendous benefit to them to hire someone with your know-how as you will reach full productivity much more quickly than a less experienced candidate. This makes the on-boarding process a whole lot easier and is especially important in these tough economic times when companies are operating a lot leaner – your experience enables you to begin contributing to their organization right away.

  • Be prepared to answer tough questions such as:

    • Are you willing to settle for less money? If so, why?
    • Why are you willing to take a position below your skill level?
    • Do you think you will be bored in this position?
    • Once the market turns around, will you be looking for a position with higher pay?
    • Do you think others in the organization will be threatened by your experience?
    • Are you comfortable being managed since you were previously in a management role?

For more information on how Adecco can help you with your job search, call your local Adecco representative today.