Five Ways to Get the Job When You’re Overqualified

There are plenty of reasons you might want a job for which you’re overqualified. Maybe you’re trying to break into a new industry, and you’re willing to take a step back. Or perhaps you tried being the boss, and decided that you have more to offer as an individual contributor.

You might need something a little more low-key while you develop a business idea or deal with some demanding aspects of your personal life. Or, maybe you just need to get out of your current position – your boss is a nightmare, or your company is having financial trouble, or you just can’t stand the thought of going into work on Monday morning. And sometimes, you just need a job – any job.

Regardless of why you’ve decided to throw your hat in the ring for the role, you should go into the job interview process prepared. When you’re overqualified, it’s not a matter of whether the hiring manager will bring it up, but when. Here’s how to manage it:

Trim your resume.

It can feel a little demoralizing to have to de-emphasize your work experience, but if you’re trying to get your foot in the door, and you suspect that you’ll be considered overqualified for the role, your first step will be to make sure your resume doesn’t make you look like you should be your prospective boss’s boss.

To do this, you’ll want to get rid of anything that signifies age, including graduation years, and cut back on any roles that aren’t directly related to the position for which you’re applying. Then consider paring back your experience even further, until it’s closer to the number of years specified. (In other words, if you have 10 years of experience, and they’re looking for someone with two to three, you might get rid of jobs farther back than five years ago, or any gigs that use outdated technology and/or have job titles that are aging like milk.)

Remember that your resume is a highlight reel of your experience, not your autobiography. It’s not dishonest to emphasize the jobs and skills that are most relevant to the position. You might also consider choosing a resume format that focuses on skills instead of previous job titles.

Applying online? Don’t forget resume keywords.

Most jobs these days come through networking, but it’s still worth it to apply online, if you find a role that really speaks to you. To make it through the Applicant Tracking System and get to a real, live person in Human Resources, you’ll have to know how to use resume keywords, however.

Start by looking at the job listing and isolating the words that the employer uses to describe the job; make sure your resume includes them. Then look for the words they’ve left out by comparing the listing against similar listings in your field, and incorporate those keywords as well.

Use your network.

Depending on whom you ask, 60% to 85% of jobs are filled through networking, which only makes sense: If you’re a hiring manager, which candidate would you prefer – the one who applied blind, or the one endorsed by a connection at the company?

Employers love to interview candidates who come through employee recommendations, because they know that employees risk their reputations every time they vouch for someone. If you can find someone at the organization to vouch for you, you’ll stand a better chance of overcoming any objections that might arise because of your experience, whether the issue is too much experience or too little.

Prepare your story.

Why do you want this job? If the answer is, “Because I need to pay the electric bill,” that’s perfectly valid – but not the one you want to trot out during the interview process.

If you can demonstrate that you understand the company and its mission, and connect that to your own career goals, you’ll be able to persuade the hiring manager that you’re passionate about joining the organization — that this isn’t just a fallback option or temporary whim for you.

Don’t hide your light.

There’s a difference between trimming your unrelated experience and trying to seem less savvy than you are. Don’t make the mistake of dumbing it down in the interview process.

Remember that employers want to hire workers who are dedicated, savvy, and excited about the work. Your goal is to show that you connect with the role and the company, not to pass yourself off as someone who has less to offer.

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