Applying to Jobs If You Are Overqualified

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Generally, you should not apply to jobs for which you are overqualified; however, there are some notable exceptions. When you apply for such a job, you make the hiring manager wonder if you are too good to be true. As the saying goes, if it is too good to be true, it probably is.

This makes the manager skeptical of you, but that isn’t the reason not to apply. Rather, the reason is that you will be unhappy with the job should you get it. You’ll quickly find yourself bored and be looking for a different job. Some managers discard applications of those who are obviously overqualified.​

Exceptions to the Rule

Two exceptions when you might legitimately apply for a job beneath your skill set are when you are without a job and when you want to take a step back in your career. When you do not have a job, all bets are off. Depending on your financial situation, you need a job quickly. You consider yourself fortunate if you can find a gig that pays the bills. Even if you could do something more prestigious, securing a job is your job when you’re out of work.

When You Should Consider Taking a Job You're Overqualified For

Sometimes it is perfectly fine to take a step back in your career. There are many reasons someone might want to do this. You may have found that next step was not what you expected it to be, so you need to go back to where you will be happy.

You may have found you are more productive at lower levels of the organization. You may want to transition from a managerial role to a non-managerial role. You may have retired and want to do something less stressful. All these situations represent good reasons to take a step back.

When applying for a job for which you are overqualified, do what you can within the confines of the hiring process to let the manager know why you would be satisfied with this job. Your qualifications will show you’re a benefit to the organization, but you will need to assuage the hiring manager’s skepticism about an overqualified candidate.

If you are out of work, your employment dates will clearly show that, but be sure to appropriately explain why you do not have a job presently. If you want to take a step back, use your cover letter or personal statement to explain so. If you get an interview, express why you plan to stay in the job for at least a few years.