Career Center Blog

November 7, 2013

When they say you're overqualified


Have you ever applied for a job and been told you were overqualified? It might sound weird, but employers are actually suspicious of employees with too many qualifications, even though you may have good reason to seek a "lesser" position. (You want to enter a new industry, say, or you want less responsibility because of issues going on in your personal life.)

If you're being turned down for work because of the "O" word, here's what to do:

Confront the issue upfront. Explain (in your cover letter, while networking, at the beginning of interviews) why you are pursuing this particular job. Better yet, demonstrate a direct relationship between your amazing qualifications and an improvement in the employer's bottom line.

Downplay job titles. On your resume, emphasize your skills and de-emphasize your titles.

Prove loyalty. If you sense the employer suspects you'll quit the minute you find something better, stress your longevity at previous jobs. Most employers believe that past performance is an indicator of future performance.

Offer to sign a contract. Consider saying, "Your company is exactly what I'm looking for; in fact, I want this job so much I will commit to staying for a minimum of a year."

Be enthusiastic. Demonstrating genuine eagerness about the job, a true desire to work for this particular company, will incline hiring managers in your favor.

Let others speak for you. A third party's endorsement can be more powerful than anything you can say. Make sure your references are saying the right things about you.

Take money off the table. If salary is the elephant in the room, it's better to deal with it right away. Assure the hiring manager that you are simply seeking the market rate. Your attitude should be that your past earnings are not relevant to your current job search.

Finally, a word from the silver lining department: The overqualified stigma is less than it once was. Indeed, some companies frankly admit using the continuing down economy to snag good help at bargain prices. Good for them. And good for you, for making it work to your advantage.

Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use. Email her at

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Karen Burns Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.

Kristen Fife Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.

Lisa Quast Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.

Randy Woods Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.

Former contributors

Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.

Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.

Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."


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