There are many reasons why you may wish to apply for a job where you are overqualified. However, usually it only applies to a small percentage of job seekers.

At the moment, that minority has swelled, as workers who took early retirement during the pandemic are looking for ways back into the workplace, without the same stresses and responsibilities of their previous roles.

Whether this is the reason you want to re-enter the world of work, or you have some other driving reason, how do you hurdle the preconceptions and the difficulties of applying for a role when you are overqualified? And why is being able to do the job backwards and in your sleep such a problem for employers?

Understand employer concerns

Before you dash off the shiniest versions of your CV, stop for a moment and consider why employers can be hesitant to hire overqualified candidates. On the face of it, and from your vantage point, it can seem daft that they aren’t chomping at the bit to get a greater package of skills and experience for a fraction of the cost.

However, employers have legitimate reasons for being concerned, and if you want to secure a role you believe you can do, you need to address these.

First, ‘you’ may know that you’re happy to accept the market rate salary for the role, not your previous top-of-career salary, ‘they’ don’t. They may assume that your compensation expectations outstrip what they are willing to pay because the usual rule of thumb is better skills equals better salary. So, you need to be very clear about expectations from the start.

The second main reason, which is harder to head off at the pass, is that more experienced people coming from senior roles may pose a management difficulty, as they may find it difficult being managed by a less-experienced person. Hiring someone overqualified may lead to tension in the ranks.

There are other factors to consider too. Will the overqualified recruit become bored and disengaged? Will they overstep boundaries and hierarchies? Will they expect quick promotion? Is this just a stop-gap for them until they can find something else that is more in line with their level of knowledge?

As such, for an employer, hiring someone overqualified poses risks, not least the inevitable costs to train someone who they worry might then leave for a ‘better’ job. So, what can you do?

Customise your application

Take a customised approach to applications, so that you can list only the relevant skills and experience for the individual role. Try to show only the skills which are relevant for the role. This isn’t about showcasing your most impressive career highlights, but starting how you mean to go on by showing that you are interested in this job, for this employer.

It’s also useful to include in your cover letter an acknowledgement that you may appear to be over-qualified, and then to address the potential concerns of the employer. Explain why you are interested in the role and are committed to it.

Dedicated employees are valuable, so show that dedication from the start. It helps to show that you are actively choosing a more junior role, not that you’ve been forced into it by circumstances.

Make sure the profile on your CV also covers that you are interested in this type of role.  Your profile on a CV is the equivalent of a trailer for a movie.  It simply entices the viewer to want to watch the movie.  If it’s a bland, irrelevant trailer (profile) it’s unlike to get viewed.

When you are invited to interview, be prepared to answer questions about your over-qualification and how you will manage this on the ground. It’s a fine line to balance, especially with employers increasingly look for potential over existing skills, because of the skills crisis.

Importantly, use the interview as an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to communicate effectively at the right level, your genuine interest in the position and your commitment to longevity in the role.

Get help

Lastly, as with any situation where there’s a bridge to gap between candidate and employer, the best thing you can do is get help from an experienced recruitment agency who know how to help you navigate these sometimes tricky waters.

Get in touch


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