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

Do you remember when you were new to the job market and you would apply for every job that was close to your skillset? Only to be told you don’t have enough experience or the necessary skills for the job. Very frustrating as I am sure you will agree. We all had very similar experiences at one time or another. However, now that 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. 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 perhaps deemed to be 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, is a way of building skills and experience in advance. When looking at CVs, employers can be a little sceptical of why people want to take a step backwards. They may worry that the candidate won’t be satisfied with the position? These and many more questions are probably not true as to why the candidate is applying.

However, in the end, we all want to hire the best candidate for the job. Often, that actually means hiring someone for whom the position will be a stretch. They 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.

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

Decide what you want

To help recruiters help you with your career choices, we may need to start to think about what you want. Perhaps you are looking for flexibility and a greater work-life balance. Or a less time-consuming role due to life changes for example. Maybe the driver is to enter a new industry and feel the need to start in a lower-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 employers see your value in the role.

Understand what the job will bring

Recruiters and employers want to know that you will be a good fit for the job and the organisation. They will want to know exactly why (or the motivation) 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. Time to utilise the roles you have done in the past to leverage those all-important transferable skills, achievements and legacies. It may, of course, be that you have a drive for working in a new area such as a not 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 in a community. Individuals are willing to accept a lower-level role because it’s at their ideal company/industry. Employers will take a chance on you if they believe that you are truly committed to what the organisation stands for and can see what you will bring. It becomes clear that you truly want to work there in whatever capacity, even if it’s a perceived 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 on 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 for the business to employ you. You may have to demonstrate to the employer your value and that this is the job for you. Convincing them that this role 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 a lower-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 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, strengths 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” or drivers for doing what you are doing. Try to understand your motives and drivers behind the decision to go for a role. Many may think of you as being overqualified. 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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