Tips for Applying for a Job When You’re Overqualified
After you’ve worked at multiple jobs and tucked years of experience under your belt, you might feel like you’ve got the talent and expertise to land any position you want. What you might not expect is that your abundance of know-how can actually make it harder to get a job.
Hiring managers might figure you’re using this job opportunity as a temporary gig until a more senior position opens up elsewhere, or that you expect to earn a salary that’s commensurate with your experience. But just because a hiring manager thinks you look too good on paper doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.
Your resume tells the story of your career. And while you should never, ever lie on your resume, it is permissible to leave off jobs and generally paint yourself as a candidate who is at the right level for the job at hand is acceptable. Here are some suggestions for resume strategies that will make you look appropriately qualified for the position.
Make it tailored: As with any job application, if you're overqualified you should make sure your resume focuses on how your experience matches the job you want. Don't delve into experience and qualifications that go beyond the company's needs for the position.
Leave off advanced degrees: You do not need to list every degree you hold. Leave off the post-college degrees if you think they are not necessary to get the position you want. You don't need to advertise the fact that you have more credentials than the employer is looking for.
Leave dates off your education: There's no need to include graduation dates for when you attended university on your resume. Dates advertise how old you are, and your age can indicate that your overqualified for an entry-level position.
And, remove some jobs: You are not required to list every position you've held.
You can remove jobs from your resume that make you look over-qualified; just be aware that doing so may make companies wonder what you did during those blocks of time.
Go functional: Resumes can be formatted in all sorts of ways, from functional (which is an achievement- and skill-based format) to chronological (which lists jobs by when they were held). A functional resume can help reduce the impact of your most recently held title and responsibilities; assemble your functional or combination resume around the position you desire.
Put the summary or objective sections to use: This is your best spot — aside from the cover letter — to tell your story. Some ways to take advantage of this section when you are overqualified are:
- Put the title of the position you want in your objective section.
- Explain in your summary that you're looking to transition to a new career (this can show why you'd take a position below your experience level).
- Avoid lofty language — skip details about how long you've worked and your strong expertise. Keep it simple!
- Explain your career arc in a way that makes it clear why you'd take a lower level position; perhaps you're in a field where promotions have led you to management-level positions, and away from doing the work you actually enjoy.
Deemphasize titles: Typically, job descriptions on your resume put the title in a place of prominence. But that doesn't have to be the case; you could put the company name on the top line, and list titles below.
Use less powerful words: In general, the advice on the site is to punch up language, and use powerful words to convey how much responsibility and leadership you have. But if you're concerned about looking overqualified, dial down your language. Instead of "Spearheading a transition to a new accounting system" you can say that you "Helped manage a transition to a new accounting system."