How to find a job when you’re overqualified

Sometimes you need a career change or you need to de-stress your work life. Here's how to explain it to hiring managers. 

A job applicant sits down on an office couch, talking to a hiring manager who is looking at their resume.

We often hear about the skills gap. It can be most easily defined as a relatively big difference between the skills and training that employers are looking for, and the skills that workers actually have. Then there is the complete opposite – this is usually referred to as a skills surplus.

Many companies are operating on a skills surplus rather than a skills gap. This creates situations where overqualified workers are having a hard time finding work, and employers are rejecting applications from candidates who are too qualified, and then struggle to find candidates with the right set of skills.

Companies tend to prefer to hire applicants who are a perfect fit, rather than hiring someone who brings more skills – or experience – to the table than required.

Why Are Companies Wary Of Hiring Overqualified Workers?

No matter the industry, many employers are wary of hiring overqualified employees for a few different reasons.

Employers often mention that they're worried an overqualified worker will leave as soon as a better opportunity comes around, which can become costly for them as they will need to start the recruiting process all over again, and most likely get the new hire up to speed.

Some will also assume that a candidate with a higher level of education and who has more experience will demand a higher salary than what they can pay, or that someone who is too qualified for a position will not want to work under someone with less experience. In most industries, employers seek candidates who can tackle challenges and grow both personally and professionally as part of their company – thus, they assume that someone who is overqualified will soon become bored with the job and start looking for new challenges and more responsibilities.

Those are all valid concerns, of course. But not all skilled workers have the same desires and ambitions. It is not rare to find college graduates wanting to work in a completely different field than what they studied for.

How To Land A Job If You're Overqualified

The first thing on your to-do list as an overqualified job seeker, is to identify and better understand the reasons you're looking to apply for a position that requires lower skills than the ones you possess.

Maybe you're looking for a career change, or you have recently been laid off of your previous job and want to try a different industry. Maybe this position would allow you to work less hours and spend more time with your family. Or perhaps you are interested in a position with a different level of responsibilities – and less stress.

Whatever your reasons are, it is crucial to identify them and go to a job interview prepared with genuine and honest answers. Have a good look at your resume and try to place yourself in a hiring manager's shoes. Why would they hire you? After all, you are too qualified for the job.

A carefully prepared resume can help you land a position even if you are overqualified. The key is to put more emphasis on your skills and less on your experience. Focusing on the skills that the position requires – and not the ones you have that the position doesn't require –  will go a long way during an interview. Obviously you should ensure that there are no gaps that cannot be explained in your resume.

During the recruiting process, or the interview, it is imperative that you address your interviewer's concerns about your over-qualification. Some experts even recommend offering your future employer an 18-month commitment, explaining that you will keep this position for at least a year and a half.

No matter the reasons you are looking for a position that requires a lower level of skills than what is on your resume, make sure you tell an honest story and are completely open about the reasons you want this particular job. Honesty goes a long way, especially when your interviewer has some doubts about hiring an overqualified worker.

Job seekers have unlimited access to our online job search tool to locate job opportunities that best meet their needs. Don't wait to discover the number of opportunities in your area.

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