by Sarah K. White

How to get the job when you’re overqualified

Jun 30, 2015
CareersIT JobsIT Skills

The idea of being ignored for a job because you’re overqualified may seem counterintuitive, but there are a number of reasons a company might overlook your resume for that exact reason.

Most job-seekers worry about being under-qualified for a position, but what if you’re overqualified? You may decide to apply for jobs for which you are overqualified for a variety of reasons. You might be looking for a change of pace, you might want to get more hands-on experience with new technology, you could be looking to spend more time with family or you may want to pursue a new degree. Oftentimes, it’s because people have climbed the corporate ladder and are looking to step out of the corporate rat race, according to Jon Mazzocchi, managing director at WinterWyman.

Whatever the reason, there is always the potential that a hiring manager will overlook your resume after viewing your vast experience. It’s not always ageism or discrimination, sometimes it’s just a fear that you will get bored if you aren’t challenged. And a bored employee might make for a less productive employee, or one who doesn’t stick around.

You may also be more qualified than the person doing the hiring, Mazzocchi says. “If they have stronger experience, knowledge or expertise than the hiring manager themselves, then they may be less inclined to look at them.”

It isn’t impossible, however, to get a job for which you’re overqualified. You just have to have the proper strategy. Here are seven tips on how to get a job when you’re overqualified.

Scale down your resume

You don’t want to lie on your resume, whether you’re adding or glossing over information. But there are some elements you can omit if you want to under-play your qualifications.

“There are ways and techniques people employ to take information off their resume,” says Mazzocchi. “You can take the first couple jobs off if you want and instead of putting dates of graduation, just put the schools you went to and not the dates.”

You should be prepared to answer truthfully about any dates and past employment if a recruiting or hiring manager asks, but it’s a technique that might prevent them from overlooking your resume for the position at first glance.

This tactic is especially useful if you want to break into another industry, says Mazzocchi, as opposed to those who want to take a step down in their current industry. If you decide to get into a different industry, it gives you more leeway to play with your resume by positioning your experience for the job you want, rather than the job you have.

Avoid raising the red flag

Before you rush to water down your resume, you want to avoid raising any suspicion for the person reviewing your CV. “There are also potential red flags for recruiters or hiring managers. If you see someone’s resume and it started in 2005, and their first position was manager or director, they’re going to assume there’s more to that,” says Mazzocchi.

This is especially true in an age where we all have some form of a digital footprint, so if you hand in a resume that doesn’t match your LinkedIn profile or personal information on other social networks, the changes on your resume might work against you. You don’t want to start off on the wrong foot, with a recruiter or hiring manager who may be suspicious of your motives.

Kelly Donovan, an executive resume writer, says to avoid changing any job titles, because it can lead to fast rejection if a company tries to verify your employment, only to find you have listed a different job title. She says it’s safer to change the descriptions of your past and current positions; you can omit the number of people you have managed, budgets you’ve been in charge of and your responsibilities within each role.

Pitch yourself

If you are going for a job you are overqualified for, you should be prepared to clearly explain to the hiring manager why you want the job. Consider it a personal pitch. Whether it’s in the interview, in your cover letter or on your resume, you should be ready to make a hiring manager understand why you are going for a position that may be a step down.

According to certified career coach and professional resume writer, Cheryl E. Palmer, you can do this by flipping the interview questions onto the hiring manager. “Ask the employer what they are looking for in the perfect candidate,” says Palmer. “This will give you insight into what qualities and skills the employer is looking for.” With this information, you can alleviate concerns that the hiring manager or recruiter might have about you.

Be upfront

When gunning for a job that is a step down, don’t be coy about your intentions. The hiring manager will probably be concerned that you won’t want to stick around long or that you won’t feel challenged in the role, which are all good reasons not to hire someone. Avoid this by remaining clear and upfront with the hiring manager — tell her exactly why you want to take the job, and help her understand your motivation.

“Employers will be very concerned that you’ll be eager to take the next higher-paying opportunity that comes along, so be ready to alleviate their concerns by explaining why you want to be at a lower level and how long you want to be at that level,” says Donovan.

Companies aren’t interested in someone who plans to stay only for a short period of time or who will be bored quickly. They want someone who feels invested in the role and who can help support the team. Let them know you have every intention of taking the job seriously.

Try an internal transfer

An internal transfer may be more successful than sending out your resume to other companies that don’t know you. You’re going to have more luck at a company that already knows your strengths and has documented proof of your successes. If you’re happy at your current company, but want a change of pace, try feeling out other departments to see if an internal transfer would be a better option.

Most companies don’t want to lose employees, even if it means letting them move around and take on other roles. You already have valuable knowledge of about how the company works, and sometimes you can bring more to the table if you understand how other departments operate within the company. If you’re lucky enough, your company may even let you create your own role within a department.


If you aren’t having any success with traditional methods, try reaching out to your professional network. It can help you get a foot in the door at a company if you have someone on the inside vouching for you. It’s a similar tactic to an internal transfer, but it will help you get into a new company.

“When you come recommended from someone on the inside, it will go a long way in terms of the hiring manager’s confidence in you as a candidate,” says Palmer.

Your network of peers and colleagues also have a history with you and might better understand your goals and work ethic. Try reaching out to people in your network to increase your chances of landing a job you might be otherwise overlooked for because of your experience.

Don’t get discouraged

The most important thing to remember for any job seeker is to avoid getting discouraged. If you aren’t having any success with sending your resume out or reaching your internal network, maybe you need to reconsider your approach. You can try talking to people in the industry you are interested in to get a better sense of what skills and experience you need to highlight on your resume.