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Overqualified Job Seeker DOs and DON’Ts

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Overqualified Job
Rest assured, during every interview process, there are always candidates who don’t perfectly fit the position’s mold.

But what if you’re too overqualified? It’s important to stress how and why your skill set would be an asset to the company, but it can be difficult to convey this without seeming too far beyond what the job requires.

Follow these Do’s and Don’ts to help you find a satisfying job that offers new challenges, regardless of how long your resume is.

1) DON’T – Undersell

Your skill-set could very well be above what the interviewer is looking for, but that doesn’t mean you need to leave anything out. Don’t be afraid to list things outside of job experience.

A truly qualified candidate won’t just have expertise in the field, but a great personality and activities that could impress a hiring manager. Hiding any of your many assets could put him or her off and convince them you’re not really a good fit, and this only moves your career backwards.

Point out earlier experiences in which you grew and changed with a company, citing promotions or awards.

This can prove your motivation to work hard in a lower-level position, without implying that you would be unhappy to start small.

2) DO – Be Honest

It’s most likely immediately obvious that you could be too heavy on qualifications for the desired position. This is not a bad thing. While there’s no need to bluntly say you are overqualified, it doesn’t hurt to point out the list of skills you have at hand, even if it’s long.

Honesty in this regard could very well impress a hiring manager, and they’ll be excited to gain an employee who is obviously a fast, intelligent learner.

3) DON’T – Show Desperation

In this economy, it’s true that many job seekers could be searching “below” their desired positions, but it certainly won’t do you any favors to point this out.

Your interest in the position alone proves that you want the job, and it’s up to you to show competency. Your resume and cover letter can be tweaked to highlight key experiences relevant to the position, as opposed to an extensive work background that, while impressive, might not be relevant.

Be forthright in indicating how and why you will be a great hire at this particular company, without implying you’re “slumming it” by applying.

4) DO – Be Enthusiastic

A priceless commodity in an interview is enthusiasm. Interviewers immediately weed out potential employees who are less-than sparkling during an interview. Your experience may have gotten you in the door, but it’s your attitude that will truly stick in a potential employer’s mind.

Explain life experiences relevant to the job, or moments throughout your working life in which you believe you learned valuable lessons.

Animated, engaging people are a pleasure to interview, and you shouldn’t be afraid to sell YOU instead of selling your skills.

5) DON’T – Discuss Dollar Figures

This may be the sorest of subjects among overqualified candidates. Keep in mind, just because you’ve made more money than you are currently seeking doesn’t make you the perfect candidate.

Always steer the conversation towards skills and experiences rather than previous salary. If your interviewer seems concerned you’re more of a flight risk in light of lower pay, point out your history of loyalty or longevity at previous companies.

A Harvard Business Review article cites a study proving “overqualified” candidates often out-perform their counterparts, and have no greater quit rate than co-workers of more limited experience.

Deeming the desired job a satisfying challenge rather than a temporary fix can help assuage the interviewer’s fears.

6) DO – Try Your Best To Find a Fitting Position

Finding a job is hard enough, finding one that is perfect is near impossible. Do your best to seek out jobs that match up with your resume as much as possible, while also avoiding the desire to settle for something that could be unsatisfying to you.

Your experience may be at a higher level than that desired by a young startup, but your skills can help any manager. A great employer will want to surround themselves with expertise that will make their team look great.

Conversely, aiming outside of an industry relevant to your previous employment could get your resume tossed outright. Perhaps you’ll get an interview for a job with lower pay than you’re used to, but an employee who works hard to meet challenges can quickly rise through the ranks.

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Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

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