Am I overqualified for work?


Help!  I’m overqualified!

There is a fine line between having all the skills that the employer is looking for and being overqualified.  You might think it can only be a positive thing to have even more experience than the client is looking for, but bear in mind that they might not see it like this, for several reasons:

  • Candidates that are overqualified may find the role limiting and therefore be inclined to move on sooner.
  • It can be intimidating for managers and team leaders to introduce someone into the team that is capable of working at a higher level, particularly if there is no chance of progressing them into a more senior role.
  • Someone who is underqualified is likely to be cheaper and easier to ‘mould’.

Nonetheless, many of our clients welcome the extra experience that an overqualified person can bring to their team, but it is useful to know how best to approach your application when it is apparent that you are probably overqualified, so here are our suggestions.

‘To be honest, I could do this job in my sleep.’

Don’t brag that you are over-qualified for the position.  It is very off-putting and can have the opposite of the intended effect – even worse if you become defensive when the recruiter tries to find out why you have applied for a position at a lower level than you are capable of working.

‘When can I start?’

Don’t assume that you are the best candidate just because you have all the skills!  Personality is also important and a good recruiter will know the personalities that are likely to fit into the client’s team.  Coming across as over-confident won’t enhance your chances of getting an interview.

The 15-page CV

There’s nothing wrong with having a long career behind you but a CV that is too long is tedious to review and will only make you seem more overqualified.  You don’t need to provide an in-depth explanation of roles that you did earlier in your career – particularly in IT where technology moves on quickly.  Try to keep to four pages or less.  It is absolutely fine to write ‘previous career history available on request’.

‘I’m looking to take it easy’.

There is nothing wrong with taking a step back from a stressful role but it is important to be aware of how this can be perceived by the client – there are concerns associated with taking on a person that is looking for a step backwards – inevitably they would probably prefer someone that is hungry for success rather than someone that is looking for an easier job, so make sure you can demonstrate that you are not just looking for an easy ride.

And most importantly, here’s what you SHOULD do if you think you are overqualified, but still want to apply for the job…

Be humble.

It’s all about perception.  If you are humble about your skills it may come as a pleasant surprise to the recruiter that you have all the skills they are looking for and more.

Be realistic.

If the advert says ‘at least 2 years’ experience required’ it is likely to be a relatively junior role.  It is likely that the client is looking for someone whose future they can invest in, who will grow with the company.  Being inexperienced can be perceived as a positive – the company can be responsible for training the person in their own methods.  With the best will in the world, someone with 20 years of experience probably isn’t going to be a good fit.

The considered approach

If you see a job that’s of interest but think you might be overqualified, why not submit your CV with a short cover letter indicating that you have the required experience but recognising that the position might not be at the right level for you – this is better than just sending an application with no explanation.  It could be the case that the client will consider a more senior person, if someone ‘really good’ happened to be on the market.  It could be that the recruiter will have something else up their sleeve that will be a better match.  They might even want to get you in for a meeting to see how they can help you to find a new role.

Make it a positive

Being capable of adding value AND having extensive experience doesn’t have to add up to the dreaded O-word! Make it work for you.  Put a positive spin on it, and let your CV do the talking.