How to get hired when you're overqualified for every job

It happens to most people at some point during their careers: They find themselves applying for jobs they’re overqualified for.

It happens to most people at some point during their careers: They find themselves applying for jobs they’re overqualified for. There are several reasons this happens -- they may have been out of work for some time, they’re switching fields, or they’re simply interested in trying something new.

Still, hiring managers generally shy away from overqualified candidates, because they worry the employees will get bored and bolt as soon as another opportunity comes along that’s more their speed.

To overcome that perception, here are some ways to get hired when you’re overqualified.

Be Yourself, Experience and All

Don’t dumb down your resume, says former recruiter and current career coach Caitlin Graham of Unapologetic Coaching. “I actually think it's better to be totally transparent. Present a completely truthful resume, but also address your desire or willingness to take a lower position outright in your cover letter. Lying on your resume is always dangerous, in my opinion, even if it's only by omission.”

Even if you don’t outright lie, it can be tempting to pretend or downplay your success, but Jeffrey Camp, director of Cinium Financial Services Corp., discourages that tactic, too. "Don't apologize for previous success and don't shy away from it,” he says. “Use your previous success as a selling point, but explain that company culture and your job satisfaction are more important than salary alone. Reiterate that you wouldn't be interviewing for the position if it isn't one that you really wanted.”

Camp says he wants highly skilled people working for him in every position, so he recommends talking about how your skills can contribute to the whole team.

Focus on Your Interests

“Most often, overqualified candidates focus on why they are willing to take a lesser position, instead of why they are interested in the position,” says headhunter Jim Giammatteo of And if you’re talking about why you’re willing to take a lower position, you spend less time talking about your skills and why you’re a great fit for the company.

Instead of explaining why you’d take a step down from one position to another, Giammatteo suggests talking about how you enjoyed your time at other jobs, but are interested in focusing on your real passions.

Reach Out to Your Network

It’s good advice for any job search, but activating your network can help establish an “in” when you’re trying to get a job you may be overqualified for. For example, Stacy Lindenberg, owner of Talent Seed Consulting, says she has several friends who have chosen to leave executive-level positions to regain their work-life balance.

“In some cases, they were willing to take a pay cut of 30 to 50 percent, and for many of them, reaching out discreetly to hiring managers, recruiters and well connected individuals in their network was key,” she says. “By sharing their interest (and willingness) to consider lower paying jobs with influencers in their network, they were able to engage others in speaking on their behalf.”

This helped future employers look beyond past salary ranges on the applications and understand what was truly important to the applicants, Lindenberg says.


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