Unemployed And Overqualified For The Job? How to Respond

We can all remember looking for that first “real job” and hearing the words, “sorry, we need someone with more experience”. These are frustrating and disappointing words to an eager young job seeker. Years later, you are once again a job applicant. Have you been told “sorry, you are overqualified”? For me, the second scenario was more frustrating. As an inexperienced applicant, you almost anticipate that rejection. With years of job stability and sold work experience, it can be quite a shock to hear that these good qualities are causing the “overqualified” rejection.

How can you overcome this obstacle? Before you submit your resume for a position that you know or believe might fall in the overqualified category, review your resume and revise it. Often a hiring manager will toss out resumes that clearly signal too much experience, too much education – overqualified! In this situation, there is no interview. You have been labeled and rejected based on the resume.

Revise your resume to focus on why you are seeking this open position. Emphasize your skills and accomplishments. Include your reasons for interest in this position. For example, you might say that although your previous job was in management, you want a position with more balance and something less intense which would give you more time with family. In your cover letter, you might use the words from the job description to point out how the skills you possess match the employer’s needs. Down play any titles you may have held in previous jobs. For example, at one point, in the title insurance industry, I was officially a “Vice-President, Branch Manager”. After missing out on interviews because of the overqualified label, I removed “Vice President” from my resume. The purpose of this resume statement is to convince the hiring manager to schedule an interview with you.

In the interview, again down play any titles from previous jobs. Do not mention skills and experience that are not required for the open position. Focus on your ability to be a team player. Point out your loyalty to previous employers which can be validated by your longevity on prior jobs. If you are asked about salary, explain that you are flexible with regard to salary and that your previous salary is not relevant to your current job search.

If the hiring manager expresses concern that you may leave as soon as a better offer comes along, you might consider making an offer to sign a 12 month contract with the company.

The goal, of course, is a job offer. In this situation of “too much experience”, the hiring manager needs to be comfortable with your sincerity. No one wants to recommend a candidate for hire that leaves 60 days later. You can be honest without going overboard with your titles and accomplishments. Also, keep in mind, it is quite possible that the hiring manager will be a younger person so be sure you are friendly, relaxed and non-threatening. The overqualified label creates a tricky situation, but it can be successfully handled.


Mel Otero, author, worked in management in the mortgage banking industry and title insurance industry for over 25 years. She has started web sites and written articles to provide information, resources and inspiration during this difficult economy. She loves to write, learn and share experiences and information. Constantly researching and looking for helpful tools, the ultimate goal is making a positive difference in lives.

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