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Are you overqualified for a job? Here’s how you can handle the situation

Are you overqualified for a job? Here’s how you can handle the situation

Artwork by: Stas Podgornov

  • Are you overqualified for a job?
  • Why do employers avoid hiring overqualified candidates?
  • Higher salary demands
  • Risk of quitting
  • Monotony
  • Personality clash
  • Resistance to change
  • How to get a job you’re overqualified for
  • Choose the right resume format
  • Focus on the relevant experience
  • Be honest during the interview
  • Is it better to be overqualified or underqualified?
  • Key takeaways

Being overqualified for a job can negatively impact your chances of getting hired. Read on to learn more about the issue and how to overcome it.

Let’s say you see a job that you’d love to have, and the job posting asks for five years of experience and you have 15, and it wants someone with a bachelor's degree and you have a PhD. Think you might be a shoe in? Not so fast. One of the reasons you might not get a job interview call is that you’re overqualified for the job. But don’t worry! We have some advice on landing that job, even if you’re overqualified.

In this blog post, we’ll take a deep dive into:

  • How you might be overqualified

  • Why don’t employers want overqualified candidates?

  • How to apply for a job if you’re overqualified 

  • Being overqualified vs. underqualified for a job

Are you overqualified for a job?

If you read a job description and notice one or more of the following things, you might be overqualified for the job role:

  • The salary is significantly less than your current or most recent salary.

  • Your education level is higher than the education required for the job.

  • You are a lot more experienced in your field than the ideal candidate for the job.

  • The job requires none of the specialist skills you’ve acquired throughout your career.

Why do employers avoid hiring overqualified candidates?

If recruiters notice your education, work experience, and skills are far greater than the role for which they’re hiring, they might hesitate to hire you. If you’re wondering why, here are a few reasons:

Higher salary demands

Your expected salary will depend on your education and experience. However, every job has an allocated budget, beyond which salary negotiations are impossible. If you’re overqualified to begin with, the recruiter might fear that you’ll ask for a salary range that’s outside the budget.  

Risk of quitting

If you’re applying for a job that you’re overqualified for, a hiring manager might think you want to take the job while you search for a new one, and you’re more likely to quit after getting a better offer. 


In the event you’re overqualified for a job, you may find it boring and monotonous. This is because you’re already an expert in your field, and the absence of challenging work and learning opportunities could make your job mundane. 

Personality clash

Organizations often hesitate to hire experienced individuals for entry-level roles because they fear that such individuals might not want to work for a less experienced supervisor. This could make it difficult for the new hire to get along with everyone and work in a collaborative environment. 

Resistance to change

Hiring managers may believe that more experienced individuals are resistant to change. This may lead to age discrimination. Even though there are various laws and regulations in place to prevent ageism at work, it still takes place. 

How to get a job you’re overqualified for

Even if you are overqualified for a job, there are ways you can still get it. Here are a few tips to help you out:

Choose the right resume format

There are several types of resume formats, but the two most commonly used formats are functional and chronological. A functional resume highlights your skills and groups them, while a chronological resume highlights your work experience. Some folks advise using a functional resume to downplay your previous experience. However, since functional resumes don’t perform well in ATS scans, we don’t recommend this approach. 

Instead, use a chronological resume with a strong summary. If you have more experience than the job posting is asking for, don’t advertise that in the summary. Try to align your intro with the job posting. 

Focus on the relevant experience

If you think your overqualification has something to do with your age, focus on only including relevant experience in your resume. For example, only include your work experience during the last 10 -15 years. Hiring managers are looking for that sweet spot; if they ask for 10 years of experience and your resume includes 25 years, you might be automatically rejected by ATS before your resume even gets to a real person. 

Be honest during the interview

When you’ve reached the interview stage for the job, be honest with the interviewer if they mention you’re overqualified. However, make sure to talk about why you’d be a good fit for the role. For instance, you can talk about your passion for the job being the key reason you’re willing to fill this role. Alternatively, you could talk about a better work-life balance, more flexibility, or some other perks the organization is offering that made you apply for the job.

As the conversation turns toward salary expectations, you should be willing to accept a lower pay if you want to secure this job. If you’re eager to pursue this employment opportunity, despite the low payscale, it could help persuade the hiring manager that you might be the right fit for the job. After all, who doesn’t want to hire someone who’s passionate about the job?

Think about how your extensive work experience can work in your favor. Maybe you can think about ways to improve efficiency, implement new systems, or automate some tasks at your new role? Perhaps you’re adept at a software that you can easily implement at your new job and use to train employees? When you explain your worth and value proposition to hiring managers, they might consider hiring you after all. 

Is it better to be overqualified or underqualified?

There’s no clear answer to this question. Ideally, companies are looking for a candidate that fits their requirements exactly.  

There are a couple of benefits to being an overqualified candidate than you can present to the company. Given your vast experience, you can identify several deficiencies and bottlenecks in a company and suggest ways to improve them. The entire onboarding process should be a breeze for you, since you already know how to do your job well with minimal supervision. Finally, you’re in a position to climb up the corporate ladder quickly or move laterally within the same organization, when compared with someone who’s underqualified. 

However, companies may prefer an underqualified candidate, as they’ll see the candidate as more trainable and flexible. Companies usually also assume they can pay an underqualified candidate less, and that they’ll be better able to collaborate and fit in with the existing team.  Be sure to do your research so you can explain why you’re the best person for the job, even if you’re overqualified!

One of the best ways to avoid getting rejected for being overqualified is to develop an effective job search strategy to target the jobs for which you are the right fit. If you need help creating the right strategy, get in touch with us today! 

Key takeaways

  1. When you’re applying for a job, make sure to review the job posting in detail and determine whether you’re overqualified for the job.

  2. While overqualification can be an issue for a potential employer, there are a number of ways you can use your extensive education and work experience to your advantage and secure the job.

  3. If you’re applying for a job you’re overqualified for, make sure you talk about your skills and value proposition and explain why you’d make a good fit for the role despite your qualifications. 

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