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Handling the Dreaded You’re Overqualified Challenge

Seems I continually hear this complaint, “They aren’t hiring me because I’m overqualified.” One man wrote an e-mail to me concerned about this problem:

“I have a lot of incredible extracurricular professional activities, publishing expertise, project management experience, board leadership skills, etc. I have an MBA, and am a CPA. All of this info is on my resume because it sets me apart. However, I am concerned that people are viewing me as overqualified for lower level jobs and eliminating me. Yet, the jobs I am truly qualified for are fairly high up because of all of the varied experience. I’m not being considered due to lack of specific industry experience. Help!”

So what should you do if you are credentialed with good experience, advanced education, and are looking to get re-employed, and are even willing to take a lower level position? Here are a few tips:

Don’t be tempted to “dumb down!” This strategy moves your career backwards. You typically end up frustrated, not hired, or worse — you find a new job you can’t wait to move out of. Most employers today want you working at your ability level since productivity is key to everyone’s success, and they want to retain you past the many months it takes to train you for the job so you can begin to make a contribution to the company.

Do some soul searching and savvy preparation. Acknowledge that employers are reluctant to hire a person who is overqualified because they think the person is unlikely to be happy, won’t stay long, might want the interviewer’s job, or may expect fast promotion. They may think you aren’t seriously interested in just doing the job for which you are being hired. Nor do employers want someone who is burnt out and who sees their job as an easy paycheck. Sometimes you can be threatening to the interviewer, especially if you are truly suited for the interviewer’s job. Examine why you want the position. ”I need a job!” is not a response that will endear you to them. You must use your communication skills to convince them why a demotion is a good option. You must create a reasonable explanation, such as less travel requirements.

Don’t show desperation.You may feel it, but it will work against your getting hired if you show how frantic you are to get a job. Too often an executive says, “I’ll start at any job just to get my foot in the door.” That won’t work – it’s an outdated strategy. Being willing to take any job often makes the interviewer disqualify you. They need a competent person to perform the specific job they are hiring for. You must show not only that you can do it, but also that you want to do it. Stress some key skills that would be a major plus in the position.

Look harder for positions for which you are qualified. Employers want good fits. Customize every cover letter you write and tweak your resume to match the opportunity. Be sure to address the major needs required and demonstrate results you have achieved in line with the level requested.

NETWORK! Ask colleagues, friends, former employees, college alumni, and other contacts for referrals to new people who can help you uncover unadvertised positions. Department of Labor statistics reveal that 63% of all jobs last year were found through contacts so network, network, NETWORK!

-Robin Ryan

Robin Ryan has appeared on Oprah and Dr. Phil is considered America’s top career coach. Robin has a busy career counseling practice providing individual career coaching, resume writing services, interview preparation, salary negotiations, and outplacement, to clients nationwide. She is the best-selling author of: ” 60 Seconds & You’re Hired!“, ” Soaring On Your Strengths“, ” What to Do with the Rest of Your Life“, ” Winning Resumes” and, “Winning Cover Letters“. A dynamic national speaker, Robin has spoken to over 1200 audiences sharing her insights on how to improve their lives and obtain greater success. Contact Robin at: 425.226.0414, or email:, or visit her website:

© Copyright 2012 Robin Ryan. All rights reserved.