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Johanna Milbank
Written by Johanna Milbank



“Having more knowledge, skill and/or experience than is needed (for a particular job).”

Cambridge Dictionary

A common issue for older job seekers is the rejection for being ‘Overqualified” or having too much experience for a role. You have years of experience and have gained a number of formal qualifications over your working history and now you find that many employers will not even consider you for a role because you have far more skills than they need.

So, why would an employer reject someone willing to work at a lower position when they bring so much added value? Here are the positives:

  • You will require less training and supervision
  • You are more productive sooner
  • You bring new ideas and experience from past roles; and
  • Can act as a mentor and teacher to other staff boosting moral and staff development

The issue is however, that from an employer’s perspective, they see the following:

  • You are expecting a higher salary
  • You’re a poor fit for the role
  • You will become bored and will not be challenged in the role
  • You might upset the team dynamics being more experienced than those who will be managing you
  • You will leave when something better comes along
  • That you will walk in and try and take over; and/or
  • You will not take direction from less experienced management

So what can you do to challenge these concerns when applying for a role?

Clarify why you want the job – There could be any number of reasons why you are applying for a lower level role, all very legitimate. They could include:

  • Greater work life balance
  • Less stress and less time-consuming
  • New industry and you feel you need to start at an entry level
  • Looking to move away from current employer/industry
  • Returning to the workforce after a time away i.e parenting, illness or travel

Show you are a good fit for the role – Use your cover letter to sell yourself as a good candidate including stating why you are interested in the role, how it fits into your long term goals and what aspects of the role are appealing. Example: it is your dream company and you are willing to start anywhere and are passionate about the company.

Clearly articulate how your skills match what the employer is looking for – Make sure your skills and qualifications in your application letter and resume match what the employer is looking for.

“Tone down your qualifications and experience to match the key criteria of the role”

Bridget Hogg HR Development at Work

Are you over qualified or just differently qualified – i.e. changing industries, be explicit in how your skills are transferable to the new field

Choose words carefully – i.e. keep away from words such as “supervision”, “overseeing” or ones that give off a managerial vibe if applying for a non-managerial role. Focus on the more work-specific skills that the job requires. Play down titles or leave them off your resume instead listing the company’s name, length of employment and key job duties but as per above choose your words carefully.

Be humble – if a qualification (even though you worked hard to get it) is not relevant for the job leave it out of your resume. Your resume should be targeted for the reader and is not a record of everything you have done. There is one risk here however, that if you do take out non relevant or higher level qualifications and the employer has other roles more in line with what your skills are, you won’t get referred to these options. This risk is very minimal but one way to check this is to visit the company website and employment pages and any other roles currently advertised.

“Resumes should be targeted for the reader and not as a record of what you have done”

Bridget Hogg HR Development at Work

Keep your resume tailored and relevant to the job being applied for, simple is best but address the criteria for the role

Research the company to find out how your skills will best meet the employers needs

Be approachable, friendly and compliant, this is especially important if you are over qualified to allay many fears and concerns from the employer’s perspective

Show a willingness to learn, they will be less willing to hire someone that has ‘nothing left to learn’

Remember your skills are an asset to the right business, you just need to find the right match and pitch yourself appropriately.

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Johanna Milbank

Johanna Milbank

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