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Overqualified for that job………..think again.

Do you remember when you were bright shiny and new to the job market and applying for every job mentioning your qualifications? Only to be told you didn’t have enough experience or the necessary skills for the job. Very frustrating as I am sure you will agree. We have all experienced a very similar thing at one time or another. However, now you have a number of years of work and career experience under your belt, with all the skills, knowledge and experience to get any of those jobs you applied for years ago. Though now you may well be faced with one critical problem. You are overqualified.

Recruiters and hiring managers can overlook candidates with what they describe as too much experience. Perhaps they are concerned that the applicant will move on as soon as something better comes along that they are better suited for, or deemed to a more exciting position. Maybe that the candidate will expect a salary that is greater than their budget. Or perhaps need a line of sight toward a promotion. All reasonable questions though without a great deal of basis of truth.

Doing your time

Now it could be argued that doing your time, or put another way your “apprenticeship”, with all those entry-level jobs in the past is a way of building skills and experience in advance. When looking at CV’s of individuals who seem to have already done that apprenticeship, employers can be a little sceptical of why they want to take a step backwards. They may tend to worry, amongst other things, that the candidate won’t be engaged enough in the position. Clearly, these and previous questions are not necessarily true assumptions on why the candidate is applying.

Clearly, as we all would I am sure, want to hire the best candidate for the job. Often, that actually means hiring someone for whom the position will be a stretch but can learn and develop into the role. It may also be that they are a little underqualified, though have a desire and drive to do the work and learn. Conversely, it may well be difficult to see an overqualified candidate as ambitious with the same degree of hunger to push on.

While there are many good arguments around not employing someone who has qualifications over and above for the role; it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t do an equally good job and potentially even better.

Decide what you want

To help recruiters and to help you with your career choices, we may need to start to think what you want. Perhaps you looking for greater work-life balance or something less intense. A less time-consuming role than your existing position due to life changes for example. Maybe the driver is to enter a new industry and feel the need to start in an entry-level position will ease you into the business or industry. Many people choose this route to build career capital in the new area. Or are simply desperate to move away from your current organisation regardless of the direction of the move. Being able to understand your own motivation and drivers to make the move is a vital component of helping potential employer see your value to the role.

Understand what the job will bring

Recruiters and employers want to know that you in the job and the organisation will be a good fit. They will want to know exactly why you are applying. Tell the recruiter/employer what aspects of the job are appealing to you and show how the position fits into your career goals and plans. True to utilise roles you have done in the past to leverage those all important transferable skills, achievements and legacies left behind you. It may, of course, be that you have a passion for working a new area such as a non for profit organisation. Then you can build a convincing case that you have the necessary attributes and skills but want to be able to make a difference. Individuals are willing to accept a lower-level role because it’s at their dream company/industry and have a desire to work for them. Employers will take a chance on you if they believe that you are truly passionate about the organisation and can see what you will bring to the party. It becomes clear that you truly want to work there in whatever capacity, even if it’s a lower position than you have been doing.

Help the employer see the benefits of you

Demonstrate to the employer that you understand their pain points. Outline what positive attributes and talents you bring to the organisation, to help solve their day-to-day problems. Do your research on the organisation before applying to them, as you would do for any role. Employers know that getting someone with more experience means the learning curve will be shorter and less steep. Someone with more experience can and ought to be good for them.

However, you may well have to convince them, based the evidence of what you can do for them. Again this is the same for any role you will be applying for, as you will need to create a compelling case to employ you. You may have to demonstrate to the employer your worth and that this is the job for you. It is something you have been looking for and that you are willing to dedicate yourself to the cause.


If you’re trying to change careers for whatever reason, you may dismiss jobs as being overqualified for at an entry-level position. Perhaps because you have a number of years of unrelated experience and dismiss the role as something you have moved on from. Taking the position of utilising different skills, knowledge and experience, from a completely different industry perspective, is positive and can serve you well. It will help you problem solve differently and will help the organisation see issues from a different perspective. Do your research on how to apply these talents and skills to the company or industry sector; then you will have a compelling case to argue to help you be successful.

Needless to say, you will need to understand your “why” for doing what you are doing. Try to understand your motives and drives behind the decision to go for a role, thought of as being overqualified for. Remember if you understand your choices, priorities and decisions of this “why” other people will too. So don’t leave the employer under any illusion that you are the best person for the job, and that they would be daft not to employ you. Remember you are not overqualified just differently qualified.

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