'Over-qualified' for a job? What it means and how to manage it (and get the job you want)

Found your ideal job but now you are being told you are 'over qualified'? Here's what to do about it...


There are many reasons why you might end up applying for a job you end up being deemed over qualified. You might decide to take a pay cut or demotion to get your foot in the door of a company you really admire, to work with a person you think is great or to pivot your career.

You might decide that you are overworked and overstretched in your current role so you go for a job with less responsibility.

Employers often baulk at the idea of hiring someone with too much experience for a role as they think that person might not be willing to do tasks 'beneath them'.

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Or you might not think that you are overqualified for the job you want at all, but the employer thinks you are. 

Employers often baulk at the idea of hiring someone with too much experience for a role as they think that person might not be willing to do tasks “beneath them”, or they worry the job will not interest the candidate enough and they will leave.

If you really want the job and you think the employer believes you are too qualified, there are a few things you can do. 

Address it

Before you even get to interview stage, lay out exactly why you want the job in your cover letter. Explain that you have some experience and skills that are above what the job description is looking for, but that you want the job because you are excited about the challenge of XYZ or you want to learn ABC. Now is not the time to play it cool, let them know that you really want it.

Show you are committed for the long run

During the interview, emphasise that you want this job as a long-term opportunity, and not just something that will help you pay the bills until something better comes along. Ask them about potential career progression within the company and where they see the role going in the next two to five years. 

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Sell yourself

Some might describe you as over-qualified, but instead look at yourself as highly qualified for the role. Explain to the employer why you are the right candidate for the job because of the additional experience you have, and how that will benefit them and their company if they hire you.

It is an advantage for the company for them to get someone with more experience for a lower salary than they would have to pay in other circumstances. Keep that in mind.

Be prepared for a cut in salary

If you have applied for a job below the current level you are at, then you need to expect that your salary will be cut accordingly.

You must measure up whether it is financially viable for you to take a cut in your pay for the job. It might be short-term pain for long-term gain, but you still need to be sure you can pay your bills.

 Ask the employer for their thoughts

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During the interview, ask your interviewers if they have any thoughts and concerns about your experience. In this way, you can explain to them why you want the role, and help put any fears they might have to rest. 

Overqualified could be a white lie

While in many cases employers do believe that certain candidates are overqualified for a role, sometimes they tell people that they are “overqualified” to cushion the blow when they do not offer them the job.

By all means, explain why your experience is not a negative if you are told you are overqualified, but also recognise that the employer might just have told you that in an attempt to be nice. Read the situation, and move on if that is the case. 

Featured image: Getty Images


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