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Are you overqualified

Do you think you might appear overqualified for the jobs you’re applying for?

Follow these tips to reassure a hiring manager that you are a genuine candidate for the job.

Target your resume

To keep your resume in consideration, even for positions that are of a very different level from your previous jobs, consider these methods:

  • Address the issue. Use your resume's summary or objective section to highlight your interests, values, or other reasons why this is not just any job to you. If you have a management background, but are applying for a non-managerial job, it's okay to say you’re looking for more hands-on opportunities.
  • Limit your work history to your most recent positions, and those that relate to the job you are applying for. The focus should be on matching your skills and accomplishments with the open position, not recapping your entire career. A good rule of thumb is to include experience from the past 15 years for a managerial job and about 10 years for a technical job.
  • Focus more on your skills, accomplishments, and dedication than on job titles and responsibilities. A list of specific accomplishments (did you save your old employer money? Initiate a team-building practice?) can be more impressive and less daunting than a list of your responsibilities, especially if you won't have the same level of responsibility in this position. A "functional" or "combination" resume might be your best option.
  • Cluster your skills under three or four categories that are important to anyone working in the position you are applying for. These may include leadership, teamwork, innovation, computer skills, communication skills, supervisory skills, and so on.

Use your interview

If you land an interview, it means the hiring manager is interested in what you could bring to the job. Now it’s your job to frame your extra qualifications as a positive instead of a minus. Use an interview to highlight your skills and experience:

  • Explain why you want the job. And really mean it. If you don’t, you’re wasting your time and theirs. What is it about the position that attracted you to it?
  • Don’t avoid the topic of your previous experience. Instead, describe how it will help you in this particular job.
  • Do your research on the company, and describe how you’ll be a good fit there. Talk about the aspects of the company you admire.
  • Don't come across as a know-it-all, but do communicate that you can add value here and now. Avoid language that emphasizes history, such as "when I was your age..." or "this is how we used to do that..."
  • Use stories or examples of how you master new skills or solve problems, and can put that ability to work for them.

Make your education work for you

Hiring managers sometimes make decisions based on candidates' education levels. Too much education for the position could suggest you’ll be dissatisfied, you won’t fit in, or you’ll leave for a higher-paying job. If you really want the job, manage the signal your education is sending.

  • Highlight your love of learning. Show that your education means that you’re a person who enjoys learning, and who doesn’t think they know it all.  
  • Focus on workplace achievements. Discuss your workplace skills, accomplishments and dedication rather than academic achievements. Has your education built your resilience, perspective, competence, persistence? Describe how it adds value for the job you are applying for,

Negotiate mindfully

There are lots of tips out there for how to handle salary negotiations, but most of them probably don’t apply in this situation. You're not trying to get the highest salary you can. You are trying to get the job. If you like the job, take it.

  • Be realistic about wages and benefits. Thirty years of experience doesn't mean you will be paid more than a younger candidate. If employers ask for your salary expectations, make it clear that your expectations are realistic and in line with the position you're applying for. Visit CareerOneStop’s Salary Finder to explore salary ranges.
  • If the salary appears too low, ask if the employer will consider a counterproposal. If so, request an increase in line with your research. Keep in mind that the employer has the right to say no.
  • Study all offers closely. Look at the employment status (contract or regular employee), pay, health benefits, secondary benefits (disability and/or life insurance), paid time off, retirement savings plans, work schedule and potential for growth. Ask for this information in writing.