Overqualified for a Job? Tips to Overcome the Obstacles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 27, 2022

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

People apply to jobs for various reasons, and often they apply to jobs they're overqualified for. This doesn't mean they won't have the chance to get hired. It simply means they are not the best match for the job, depending on what type of candidate the employer is seeking. In this article, we will discuss what it means to be overqualified, the reasons why employers feel hesitant to hire those with an experience that exceeds requirements and how you can overcome any objections to your application.

What does it mean to be overqualified for a job?

If you're seen as overqualified for a position, it typically means that you have skills or experience beyond what is required for the job position. Companies try to find the best match for a position based on experience level and qualifications. When they see a resume that shows an excess of qualifications possessed by someone who may be better suited for a higher-level position, they'll likely be hesitant to hire you for a variety of reasons.

Reasons employers may not want to hire an overqualified candidate

Employers often question the motives of overqualified employees because the hiring process is time-consuming and expensive. Employers put forth tremendous effort to run job ads, conduct interviews and train new hires. When you consider the variables involved in finding a new employee for an open position, it makes sense why an employer wants to ensure their final choice is best suited for the job. Here are the reasons why:

  • Fear of turnover

  • Potential boredom

  • Not following direction

  • Unrealistic salary expectations

  • Ulterior motives

When you're overqualified, several factors may affect successful job outcomes. Employers are aware of these, often based on experience or based on stories that other companies have told them.

Fear of turnover

While job searching, you may have been unsuccessful in finding the exact job that you want. Then you may have started applying to jobs that were a bit under your level just to get a job and the income that goes with it. This is what scares many employers away from hiring overqualified candidates. They worry that you're only taking the job because you couldn't get the one you wanted. This means that as soon as you do, you'll be gone and they'll have to rehire someone else.

Potential boredom

Being exceptional at a job may be fun at first, but it doesn't present a challenge. Overcoming challenges from time to time is what makes a job especially rewarding, and if you're not being challenged you risk being bored. Your new workload may be very unfulfilling if you are taking on a job that is considered a step below instead of a step above.

Not following direction

The people you work with and report to will expect you to work at their level. This includes following the overall direction of the team to achieve a certain goal. If you're so proficient at your job that you're unwilling to follow the specific directives and would rather dictate your way of doing things, this could cause contention within the group.

Unrealistic salary expectations

Your level of experience is likely associated with a higher salary, and employers may worry that you'll reject their salary offer or request an amount higher than what is being offered. Some recruiters will ask about salary up-front to save time later in the hiring process. If they know you're not willing to entertain a lower salary, there is no reason to continue with the application.

Ulterior motives

Sometimes dishonest people seek job positions they're overqualified for to help them accomplish a self-serving goal. Though these scenarios are less likely, candidates may apply to lower-level positions in an attempt to disqualify another candidate they know personally. Or by taking a specific job, they may gain inside access to specific information about the company for the use of malicious intent. When this is suspected, many companies will research a candidate's background by viewing their social media accounts to get a better picture of their personality and past behaviors.

How to discuss you're overqualified for a job in an interview

If you're applying for a job that you seem overqualified for, the hiring manager will likely have some objections to your application. However, there are ways that you can address the issue of having skills that exceed the listed requirements.

  • Address your experience.

  • Consider a lower salary.

  • Explain your worth.

  • Personalize your application.

Address your experience

Acknowledge your advanced skills or lengthy work experience from the beginning. This way, interviewers will feel you are honestly expressing yourself and why you want the job. If you have a passion for the brand or would enjoy a job that provides more creative expression, then just say so.

Consider a lower salary

Be willing to consider all offers when it comes to salary, especially when applying to a lower-level position. If you're truly interested in pursuing the position no matter the salary, that will help persuade the employer that you're worth being hired.

Explain your worth

You've likely learned a lot over the years and can provide a unique set of skills to the company in question. Try to picture yourself as the person on the other side of the desk, asking the questions. Think of why you'd want to hire someone like you. Explain how your experience will help you be a more efficient employee.

Personalize your application

Once you've decided to apply, consider how to customize your resume and cover letter with the specific company in mind. Hiring managers look for applications that show how well the candidate is paying attention to the job listing. They want to know that you've taken the time to research their company.

Related: 125 Common Interview Questions and Answers (With Tips)

Tips for job applications when you're overqualified for the job

Here are some tips to follow when revising your resume and cover letter:

  • Highlight relevant experience.

  • Remove unnecessary information.

  • Review the resume format.

  • Emphasize in the summary section.

  • Speak simply.

  • Explain in the cover letter.

Before beginning your application, it's important to consider the reasons why you're seeking this specific job. Then you can customize your resume based on your motivation.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Resume Writing

Highlight relevant experience

Consider the job you're seeking and the specific experiences you've had that would highlight your application best. You may have extensive experience in an area that's not relevant to this job. In that case, omit the information and highlight your strongest areas.

Remove unnecessary information

Some things are better left unsaid, like specific details on a resume. When you're overqualified, the irrelevant details can distract from your goal of getting an interview. You may want to leave off information like advanced credentials unrelated to the job and dates of education, which can advertise your age.

Review the resume format

There are dozens of ways to format your resume, and some of them can help highlight your greatest strengths. Both functional and combination resumes can present your strengths in an ideal way for the hiring manager. Conduct an online search to find the format that's best suited for your needs.

Related: How to Format a Cover Letter (With Tips and Examples)

Emphasize in the summary section

The summary or objective section of a resume gives a brief explanation of who you are and what you're applying for, usually in two to three sentences. Introduce yourself and provide a quick summary of your transitional goals into this new position.

Speak simply

Use simple language that's engaging but not too high-level. List the basics of your expertise in a way that is easy to read and gets to the point. Clear and concise information will help guide the hiring manager through your resume quickly and leave a good impression.

Explain in the cover letter

The cover letter is the most critical part of your application because it provides a place where you can explain why you want a job you're overqualified for. While you would never want to use the word "overqualified" in your application, you can address your extensive experience with a line similar to this:

While I've successfully managed a marketing team for several years, I'd like to return to a more creative role where I can devote most of my time creating content within the team. I thoroughly enjoy the writing process and this job position with your company will allow me the freedom to do what I love most.

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