How to apply for (and get) a job that you’re overqualified for
Maybe you’re changing careers or industries, maybe you’re looking for more work/life balance. Whatever the reason, at some point in your life, you might find yourself pursuing a position for which you’re – possibly grossly – overqualified.
The thing about overqualified candidates is, hiring managers spot them and immediately assume the person is looking for a temporary position because they’re in desperate need of a job and can’t for the moment find one to which they’re actually suited. This is naturally followed by the assumption that the candidate is going to jump ship as soon as something better presents itself – and nobody wants to hire that person.
And, let’s be honest. Maybe the reason you’re applying for a job you’re overqualified for is because you’re in desperate need of a job and can’t for the moment find one to which you’re actually suited. Fair enough. But it’s important not to let the employer know that.
Whatever the case, here are four resume and cover letter tips for when you’re overqualified.
Downplay your fancy titles and degrees: Normally when we’re looking for a job, we bring this stuff to the forefront in order to impress: “Look at me! I have an MBA!” but now we’re going to tone it down. List your lower degrees and leave the others off if they’re too much. You don’t have to list the years of your education, so that’s not an issue. Just list the undergrad degree and the school.
Focus on your skills, rather than your experience: This does not mean creating a functional resume. There is almost never a good reason for a functional resume, no matter what the “experts” say. Hiring managers see one and immediately assume you’re hiding something.
If you were once the VP of HR but are applying for a Director of HR role, you can just leave off the previous job title and simply list the company and the years you worked there. Customize your resume for the specific position, and make that job title your header, as in: Maryanne Bullwinkle, Director of Human Resources. Then play up the accomplishments that are most relevant to the position for which you’re applying and leave off the ones that don’t apply.
Explain why you want this job, rather than just any job: This is where the cover letter comes in. There’s no guarantee your cover letter will get read, given how much hiring managers rely on technology these days, but you still have to write one, and now is your opportunity to explain yourself. Not by saying that you need the job, obviously, but by demonstrating that you are excited about the contributions you will make to the organization. Show that you’re excited and say why. You need to convey that you’re genuinely interested in the position and aren’t just looking for something to tide you over until something better comes along.
Focus on the employer’s needs: Ultimately, the company needs someone to perform a duty and if you are the right person to perform that duty, they should hire you. Make it clear that you have their interests in mind and, if possible, outline in full what you will bring to the table and how that will benefit the organization. Do your research on the company, demonstrate that you understand what problems they might be facing, and present solutions.
Make yourself too good to pass up and it shouldn’t matter that you’re overqualified.
Conversely, see: How to apply for (and get) a job that you’re not quite qualified for.