Overqualifying For a Job: How to Handle the Conundrum

At a time when jobs are still scarce, many are finding themselves overqualified for a position. Here are some thoughts on the difficulties that are posed both for job seekers and potential employers.

Hello, Readers!

On behalf of Glen Ellyn Patch and the other stellar bloggers who will be sharing their valuable knowledge with us, welcome to the Blog!

My posts will primarily be on all things employment: ideas for managing employees, tips for the job seeker, thoughts on building a successful career, etc.

One question that seems relevant at a time when jobs are still relatively scarce, is the possibility of being overqualified for the position you're applying for. This widespread predicament can pose difficulties for both the job seeker and the potential employer. Here are some thoughts on how to overcome the conundrum.

If you find yourself overqualified in the same field as the job you’re applying for, it is helpful to understand the employer’s possible predicament. Their primary concern is that you would be unsatisfied with the job, and might leave once a better opportunity arises. It can spell trouble for an employer, who may soon be faced with the expense and trouble of hiring all over again. Simply telling yourself and the interviewer it won’t be an issue isn’t helpful; neither is undermining your experience, which suggests to the interviewer that you haven’t made everything you could out of your previous work. Thus, I suggest a more direct approach.

Different ranks of jobs require very different relational skills, patience levels, and workplace mannerisms. With that in mind, before you interview, consider why the employer should hire you instead of someone who matches the level of experience called for. In the interview, describe what aspects of yourself, your background, and your interests align with their company. The main question you want to answer is, “Can I, and do I want to, do this job well?” Explain why you are applying for this position even though you’ve worked at higher levels previously. Perhaps you’re eager to work for their company in any capacity. Maybe you would be able to use your skills in a new way, or think this position would lend stability. Especially given the past few years’ job market and all the switches employees have had to make, employers understand that changes in career are happening across the board. And with so many studies coming out about how much job stress affects health, it is becoming more and more acceptable to seek out other opportunities simply to balance your life’s demands or to revert back to a job level that entails less stress. Just be prepared to explain why you won’t jump at the next opportunity elsewhere.

Before launching into the interview process, we strongly advise that you set one issue straight: Are you truly overqualified, or do you simply have higher-level experience in a different sector? In the latter case, the interviewer will want to know not only if you would be satisfied with the lower-level position, but if you would be a competent employee in that role. Just because you were a powerhouse, go-getter executive at a national accounting firm, for example, doesn’t mean you will be a reliable branch manager of a bank. Especially if you are up against candidates who have the exact experience the company is looking for, you’ll want to focus on the benefits of your diverse qualifications, not your advanced expertise. Brainstorm about what general disposition the job requires. When have you encountered similar dynamics in your previous work? What about the types of people you’ve dealt with: are there aspects similar to people you would work with or for in this new position? Perhaps earlier, related experience speaks to your abilities and interests that fit this position. Whatever the case, think hard about these questions and keep track of your ideas before jumping into the application process.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marie Lazzara May 06, 2011 at 05:02 PM
That's very good advice. I think about what the employer might think if I applied to something that is above my pay rate. If you're overqualified for many positions, do you think out of the box and try for something that is closely related to your field?
Chelsea May 09, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Marie: The good news for current job seekers is that employers are fully aware that there aren't many options out there, forcing many people to apply for jobs outside their field and pay range. If you find yourself overqualified for many of the positions you're applying for, I think it is appropriate to initially request a pay rate commensurate with your experience. If the employer thinks you would be great in that position, they will work with you. You may end up taking a pay cut; it's just a matter of deciding if it will be a good enough situation given that it isn't ideal. I think you're right: A certain creativity is needed in these situations as people look for positions that may not be obviously related to their experience. Finding common threads between your background and the experience called for, that's an increasingly helpful skill in this job market!


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