How to apply for a role you’re overqualified for | Main Region | UB

How to apply for a role you’re overqualified for

a man looking at a piece of paper
Why is being overqualified for a role seen as a negative? In a market where skills are in short supply, surely it could benefit organisations to choose your extensive experience over others who don’t match your qualifications. But hiring managers can baulk at employing people they perceive to be overqualified for a role. If you’re purposefully looking for a role that on paper is a step down from where you are now, you can take a number of steps to better your chances at getting the job.

Why apply for roles you’re overqualified for

There can be a number of reasons you might want to apply for a role that you’re overqualified for. Maybe you’re ready to take a step back from a highly stressful role or career path but still enjoy the work? Alternatively, you might be looking to move into a field or industry that aligns better with your personal values, but you lack experience in that sector. Or maybe it’s a company that you really admire, and you want to work with them at any level. Recent graduates might also struggle as they don’t have the work experience necessary to match their qualifications.
Regardless of the reason, you will need to overcome some common biases to get the role you want.

Why is being overqualified seen as a negative?

While many think being overqualified can only be a good thing, there are a number of reasons that managers might resist hiring someone who seems to be overqualified for the role.
  • The applicant might be using the job as a temporary quick fix because they are currently struggling to find roles that match their qualifications and therefore there might be an increased risk of fast turnover. 
  • A more qualified teammate may struggle to adapt to no longer having a leadership position making collaboration challenging.  
  • They might get bored and/or unmotivated in a role if it doesn’t offer enough challenges or opportunities to growth.  
  • They might be expecting a higher salary, or a quick pay boost, bonus or promotion.  
  • They might need to refresh their skill set. Even with experience, if skills haven’t been kept current additional training might be required.
So while there’s nothing wrong with being overqualified, potential employers may worry about hiring you. Onboarding, training and developing an employee for a role represents a significant investment of time and money so they want to ensure they get it right.

Knowing you’re overqualified for a role

You may not even realise you’re seeking out roles you’re overqualified for in your job-hunting process, putting yourself at a disadvantage. Be on the lookout for some easy tell-tale signs that you might not be hitting the right spot during your job hunt. For example, you might not feel excited by the responsibilities or learnings that a new role might offer you. Also, the salary on offer could be significantly lower that what you’re currently on. Finally, perhaps against commonly held beliefs, you should not be able to tick off every single piece of criteria that is listed in the job description – better to search out roles that offer areas for learning and growth.
However, there are valid reasons for choosing to apply to a role you’re overqualified for, but you’ll need to apply a little extra effort to ensure your resume is still considered.

Tailor your resume to make your experience relevant to the role.

To overcome potential hesitations from hiring managers, your resume needs to define you as the perfect fit for the role to ensure you don’t get immediately placed in the ‘no’ pile. In the first instance, include in your cover letter or resume the reasons that you’re applying for a role that might be perceived as a step down from your current position.
Next, put together a professional summary in your resume that explicitly articulates your interest in the role and how your experience and qualifications will benefit the employer. You’ll need to put their mind at ease, so emphasise how your level of qualification can be an advantage for them. For example, with your prior experience, you’ll be able to quickly adapt to the role and immediately make meaningful contributions to the business.
You can also align your resume to the exact job description and key criteria, leaving off anything supplementary to that, such as less relevant jobs and experience or even the dates that you qualified or left higher education.

Voice your intent

If you get called in for an interview, firstly congratulations! Next, take take a few extra steps that can help you prepare for an interview for a job that your overqualified for. During the interview ensure you further share your focus and enthusiasm for being hired for the position and address any gaps or changes on your resume. Ensure you highlight how your qualifications can create a substantial impact on the organisation's output, setting you apart from the other applicants.
It can also be helpful to share any longer-term career goals tailored to the organisation you’re applying to; you want to demonstrate that you’re planning on being there for the long haul. These goals can include your desire to become an integral part of the team, contributing to the growth of the company where possible and cultivating a lasting partnership with the company through alignment of values.

Looking for your next move?

Wherever you are in your career journey, we work to understand your needs and connect you with the right opportunities. Get in touch with one of our experienced consultants today.  

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