Job Search: What to Do When You're Overqualified

Being overqualified for a job should give a job seeker a competitive advantage, right? Unfortunately, it can be more of a liability than an asset in a job search. If you're being told you're too qualified for a job, here are five ways to address hiring managers' concerns about your candidacy.

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Wed, June 09, 2010

CIO — Derek Stolpa has been working as an independent consultant and searching for a stable, full-time job since he was laid off from his position as manager of IT procurement and asset management with Jefferson Wells, a professional services firm now owned by Manpower, in 2005. When applying for jobs in his field, Stolpa says employers have told him dozens of times that he's overqualified or too experienced.

Having prospective employers tell him he has too much experience is frustrating for Stolpa. "The part that's more disappointing is the fact that I really have a passion and enjoy what I do, and I just want to be able to share that—not only for my own professional and personal growth, but also to give back to an organization," he says.

Being told they're overqualified mystifies many IT professionals engaged in job searches. They don't understand why employers wouldn't want to hire a candidate who's more than qualified for a given IT job. Would employers rather hire someone who's not qualified, they wonder.

Exceeding the minimum qualifications required for a job certainly has its advantages for job seekers. IT hiring managers interviewed for this article say hiring a job seeker who's overqualified for a position offers several potential benefits. For one, the candidate can quickly get up to speed in a new job with little or no training. For another, the overqualified job seeker generally can bring a broader range of experience and greater depth of knowledge to the role, along with an unparalleled desire to excel. Finally, the right overqualified candidate can potentially elevate the rest of the staff by raising the bar for performance inside the organization.

But that's where an overqualified candidate's competitive edge ends. For many overqualified job seekers, the breadth and depth of their experience can be more of a liability than an asset in their job searches.

The reason? Hiring managers worry that an overqualified candidate will be unhappy in the role or with the salary and will leave the company in three, six or 12 months. They also say overqualified candidates pose a variety of management challenges. It can be hard to keep such individuals motivated and engaged jobs which may be beneath them. In addition, colleagues and managers often feel threatened by overqualified candidates. Finally, they fret over salary negotiations, knowing they may not be able to meet this kind of candidate's salary expectations.

The odds of getting the job offer may be stacked against overqualified job seekers, but it's not impossible. They just have to know how to sell themselves and how to effectively address hiring managers' specific concerns about their candidacy. Here are five tips for allaying hiring managers' concerns about your extensive qualifications in your cover letter and during job interviews.

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