How to Handle Being Overqualified for a Position

Tips for addressing the issue of being overqualified for a position during a job interview.

Employers are often suspicious of candidates who apply for jobs that they are obviously overqualified for. Regardless of your reason for applying, hiring managers often think that you are just looking for a job to bridge the gap until something better comes along. Other reasons why they may be wary include, they think that you’ll get bored with the job quickly, you’ll resent having a younger manager with less experience, you won’t be satisfied with a lower salary, or that you just aren’t good at your job. (After all, why else would you be so willing to take a demotion instead of a promotion?)

But wait. You have good reasons why you’re applying for the position. Maybe you’re ready for a position with less responsibility or travel, maybe you miss doing the actual job instead of managing people, or maybe you’ve always dreamed of working in a specific industry. Regardless of your reasoning, it’s your responsibility during the phone screen or interview to explain those reasons to the interviewer.

  • Anticipate and prepare. You must realize that your qualifications will most certainly be brought up by the interviewer. Prepare for how you will change the dialogue from being overqualified to being the person they will hire. Say something along the lines of “Yes, I’ve worked at higher level positions in the past, but this position is exactly what I’m looking for right now.” Then go on to explain why.
  • Focus on your accomplishments. In any interview, your main goal should be to show how you are the perfect person for that job. Show how your years of experience, your skills, and abilities make you the person they just have to hire.
  • Express an interest in learning. No matter how experienced you are, there are going to be new things for you to learn in every job. Simply working in a new role or at a new company can mean learning opportunities because of a product or service, a new technology, or an industry overall. Make sure the interviewer is aware of how much you desire to learn and grow in your new position.
  • Show off your loyalty. Maybe you stayed with a company for 5 or even 10 years. Employers are concerned about hiring individuals who will leave after a short period of time, so emphasize your longevity in previous positions, and that you are in it for the long haul.
  • Most importantly, be honest. Though you may be tempted to cut things off of your resume to make yourself look right for the job, being dishonest always catches up with you eventually.

Being overqualified in a job interview isn’t always a bad thing. You just have to know how to handle the situation. By playing up your strengths, and showing sincere interest in the position, the job can become yours in no time. For more interview tips, check out our blog posts on Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success and Post Interview Etiquette Tips.