How to apply for a job you are overqualified for


Over time, I have gotten several inquiries from job seekers on whether they should apply for roles they are overqualified for. In most cases, a job ad will catch the job seekers’ attention. The requirements are seven years of experience and a Bachelor’s degree in a certain field. On the other hand, the jobseekers qualification exceeds that. S/he might be having over ten years of experience and a master’s degree in the required field. This often leaves job seekers wondering if they should go ahead and apply for such roles or wait for other roles that match their qualifications. My answer is yes in most cases. This is after evaluating the reason why these job seekers are considering a role that doesn’t match their qualifications and experience. Most reason fall in the categories of;

  • They are in the process of switching careers and want to grow in the new field.
  • They are trying to get into their dream company.
  • Are in pursuit of a work-life balance.
  • Tough labour market and they just want a job.

Hiring managers worldwide have however been known not to be keen on overqualified hires. This is because of a number of reasons such as;

  • The belief that  the employer will be gone as soon as they find a role they are qualified for
  • Are afraid they might not meet the salary and remuneration expectations for the overqualified hire.
  • Worry that the overqualified jobseeker might not be flexible to perform tasks that they consider ‘inferior’.
  • Might be a threat to under-qualified managers

How then do these job seekers overcome these challenges and improve the odds of landing a job? 

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  1. Check your attitude

There is a reason you are feeling compelled to apply for the role. Do not at any level of the recruitment process show the hiring manager that you are too good for the role, Instead, aim to express genuine excitement about the opportunity and also showcase how your experience and qualification will give the company the competitive advantage they are looking for. 

  1. Let your CV and Cover Letter complement your efforts

Highlight only the relevant qualification on your CV. Use the required qualification on the job ad to guide you. For jobseekers changing careers, Use the Cover letter to articulate the reasons behind the career transition. The referees you include on the CV are also useful in helping state your case. Let them be people who can vouch for you in terms of your work ethics and as an amazing colleague who is interested in the role at hand.

  1. Ask for more responsibility

You are about to be in a job you are genuinely overqualified for. There will be times where you will finish tasks ahead of time as you already know your way around how things are done. To avoid being bored silly in the new role, ask for more responsibility or be ready to offer help. Chances are, there is always something extra you can take on or there will be an overwhelmed colleague in the office. In return, this trait will build your reputation and leave a positive impression on the hiring manager as well as colleagues and supervisor in the near future.

Doubt whom you will, but never yourself. -Christian Nestell Bovee

  1. Be ready for a pay-cut

Less pay comes hand in hand with a job you are overqualified for. Have a lesser acceptable salary range in mind as you begin the process. Having a minimum cap is very important because accepting a role you are overqualified for does not mean accepting mediocre pay.

  1. Have a plan in place.

Some unpopular truth is that; overqualified roles are very unchallenging and offer very little career satisfaction. The chances of moving up the career ladder are slim. For this reason, have a plan as early and the recruitment stage. Plan and document how long you want to be in this role. Plan on whether you want to get in and move up within the company or prefer getting a suitable role in another company. Plan on how you will still continue to ensure personal development even when in a role you are overqualified for.

  1. Be positive.

In a perfect world, you would be applying for a role you are suitable for. But that is not the case. Do not apply for these roles with doubt or anger. Give the application the very best as you would do for roles that match your qualification and experience.

Over-qualified job seekers also have a very difficult time accepting rejection. Remember a lot of factors are considered during the hiring process. Some may not be clear to job seekers hence rejection should not make you doubt your qualification and/or experience.

Happy Job hunting!

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