What to Do when Overqualified

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Many workers zealously seek out qualifications. They get extra education, acquire professional certifications, move into management positions, and more. But if the job market suddenly dries up, all their qualifications can turn against them. Employers want workers who are perfectly suited for the job that’s open. If you’re better qualified for a position higher up the ladder, you may find your application rejected, even if it’s for a job that you did earlier in your career.

Luckily, there are ways to get around being overqualified. You can start out by adapting the same contact-first job-search strategy that you might use when applying for top-level positions. Rather than sending your resume to a company, giving it a chance to see your qualifications and reject you straight off the bat, contact the hiring manager directly. Express your interest in the position and establish what you could do for the company if it brought you on for one of its open positions. If you do a good job of selling yourself as the best fit for the company’s needs, you may be able to dodge the overqualified label.

On your resume, you can use emphasis to highlight the experience that qualifies you for the job and diminish the importance of other qualifications. Rather than adopting a chronological resume, try a functional one that places your most relevant skills and experience at the top. Give those areas of your resume the most space, and limit the flashy titles or credentials that might give the impression you’re overqualified to the smallest possible space at the bottom of the resume.

Ultimately, your best defense to appearing overqualified is to be judicious about which jobs you apply to in the first place. If you have a compelling reason for wanting a position that most people with your experience wouldn’t take, then when the question of your qualifications comes up, you’ll be able to answer it. But if you’re only applying for a job because you desperately need the income, you’re going to have a tough time convincing the employer that you’ll stick around for the long term.

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