Is Being Overqualified for a Job a Bad Thing?

resume header image

Improve Your Resume or CV

If you come across a job you feel you could land too easily, you may have a few questions running through your head. Will the hiring manager pass you over because you’re too qualified for the role? Will they assume you’ll abandon ship the moment something better crosses your path? Yes, it’s possible. Still, being overqualified for a job doesn’t have to be a bad thing! 

Hiring managers want to put people in a role where they can grow. If you’ve already exceeded the growth threshold for that role, it may raise some red flags. There are a number of reasons why recruiters are hesitant to hire people overqualified for a position, but let’s look at how to turn being overqualified into a good thing. Not sure if you’re overqualified for a job? Talk with our career coaches to figure it out.  

Are you overqualified?

The first step is to work out if you really are overqualified for a job. Consider these steps to determine whether a hiring manager might deem you overqualified:

Look at the job description

Read the job description carefully to see whether your qualifications stack up. If you read through the requirements and realize that you far exceed them, you’re overqualified. While you might consider this a positive thing, it’s not necessarily so, but we’ll cover that in a moment.

Compare the salary

In case the base salary is listed, compare it with what you get in your current job (or highest-paying job) and see where it falls. If it’s significantly lower than your current remuneration, you may be overqualified. If the pay isn’t listed, do some research to try to figure it out. You don’t want to apply for a job that can’t compensate you according to your qualifications. In this case, you clearly have the skills to command a much larger salary.

Evaluate other employees

Do some research on other employees at the company in similar roles to see how you fare in relation to them. In this way, you’ll be able to gauge how you would fit in with the environment. You don’t want to be taken by surprise, especially if you’ve already accepted the job.

The cons of being overqualified

Many hiring managers panic when they see an overqualified candidate. It sounds counterproductive—don’t they want someone who will be great at the job? Of course, but it’s a lot more complicated than that. Yes, you may be tempted to list every single qualification you have, but that may scare off hiring managers and keep them from pursuing your case further. What is it about overqualified candidates that spooks recruiters?

Stepping-stone job

When hiring managers see you’re overqualified, they’ll immediately wonder why you’ve even applied for the job. They will probably assume you’re just using this job as a stepping stone or a filler until you can get the one you really want. They’ll also be concerned you will grow bored and leave soon. If they feel like you won’t stay long in the job, they may simply overlook your resume. To an employer, a less qualified but loyal employee is much more valuable than an overqualified one who quits within a few months.

Higher pay

To a hiring manager, your excessive qualifications scream, “Pay me more!” They will assume you want more money than they can offer. If they can’t meet your pay expectations, they won’t waste their time on your resume. Even if you’re willing to settle for the regular rate, they usually won’t give you a chance to explain this.

Entitlement syndrome

This might not describe you, but an overqualified candidate often scares hiring managers because they think such workers may have trouble deferring to a less experienced supervisor. They don’t want you to be in a position that will cause management issues because you refuse to follow orders. If they feel like your knowledge or experience may trump that of their current leadership, they will likely discard your resume without even giving you a chance. 

Ulterior motive

The hiring manager may suspect you have an ulterior motive behind applying for the job. They may assume that you’re actually “applying” for an upper-level position but simply starting at a lower-level job. While this may indeed be the case, should they get that feeling from your resume, they may cast it aside. If they suspect that you’re aiming for someone else’s job, they may prevent that from happening altogether. 

The pros of being overqualified

While there are many cons to being overqualified, there are also various pros. Being overqualified for a job can be a good thing if you make it work to your advantage. Here’s how you can use your excessive qualifications to succeed in your job search.

Use your cover letter

If you apply for a job you’re overqualified for, it’s important to recognize you’re overqualified. Such candidates put hiring managers off, so just come out and say it. Thus, it won’t feel like a dirty secret the hiring manager has sniffed out, and it gives you a chance to explain why you’re applying for this job. Use your cover letter to let hiring managers know that you may be overqualified, but you’re interested in working for their company and truly want the job. 

Adapt your professional summary

Use your professional summary to explain why you’re applying for the position and introduce your “pitch” for why you’re a good candidate. You can explain why you’re transitioning to this job even though it may be a step down. Your goal here is to convince the hiring manager you truly want this job. They’re about to see you’re overqualified, so you have to approach the matter appropriately. Dispel their fears that you’ll leave once something better comes along or that you’re actually aiming for the manager’s job by, for example, describing your passion for the work and how your values align with the company’s.

Tailor your skills section

One of the top perks of being overqualified for a job is that you can easily tailor your resume to fit it. You may have more qualifications than necessary, but you don’t have to list all of them. If you’re overqualified, you can focus on the skills most relevant to the position you’re after. For example, if you’re not applying for a leadership role, you can omit your leadership or management qualifications. You don’t need to delete work experience, even if it includes leadership positions, but you can tailor your skills section accordingly.

Tweak your education section

Sometimes, hiring managers equate the time since your graduation with experience. If they see you graduated from school 20 years ago, they may assume you’re highly experienced and should be looking for a higher-level job. In case you fall into this category, don’t include your graduation dates. There’s nothing wrong with leaving this ambiguous. In fact, it’s good practice to omit these dates if you graduated more than 10 years ago since this can help combat age-related discrimination. If you advance in the hiring process, they will eventually ask, but this strategy at least eliminates the issue of being too experienced for the job. 

Consider your work experience

When it comes to your work experience, you shouldn’t leave out a job just because you’re afraid it will send a signal that you’re overqualified. However, being overqualified gives you the option of being selective about what you say with regard to your previous jobs. You don’t need to include responsibilities or accomplishments that may scare off the hiring manager. Just consider your work experience and make changes as needed. 

So, is being overqualified for a job a bad thing? Not necessarily. While there are some cons to being overqualified, the power rests in your hands, and it begins with your cover letter and resume. If you can present your resume in a way that demonstrates you’re a hard worker despite being overqualified, you may get the job. Need help tailoring your resume to avoid appearing overqualified? Reach out to our resume experts for assistance in constructing the right resume for you.

Improve Your Resume or CV