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Overqualified? 4 Tips for Applying Successfully

Career trajectories are not always clean and linear. While some people obtain a degree, secure an entry-level position in their field, and work their way up over the subsequent decades, many more do not have such a tidy journey. Majors change. Industries change. Priorities change. All of which can result in job changes that are not simple or sequential. Whatever the reason, if you are applying for a position which will be perceived as overqualified for, you may raise a few eyebrows. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the process.

  1. Know your reasons. Why are you applying for this position instead of one similar to your current or recent position? Spend some time thinking through your rationale, including the opportunities and potential challenges so you can clearly articulate them in an interview. Are you seeking to move into a different company and want to understand how things work at a ground-level? Have you had a family change and desire a position with a less demanding schedule?

  2. Anticipate their questions. Potential employers may have concerns about the risks: can they afford you? Will you leave as soon as something better comes along? Be prepared with candid and affirming statements such as, “my salary is negotiable” or “I am looking for a position I can invest in and build within a company.”

  3. Rely on referrals. One of the fears with an applicant that is perceived as overqualified is what they are not saying. Are they desperate for any position? Were there problems at their last company? Be proactive about offering to have them speak with recent colleagues who can attest to your skills and ethics.

  4. Understand the risk. At the end of the day, each position you apply for should have a positive benefit for you in terms of professional development, whether that is acquiring skills, honing processes, or workplace culture. If you are taking a position that is not a lateral move, will you be happy that you took that job even if it doesn't lead to something else?

In any job search, rejection is a part of the process. Don’t be bashful about asking employers who decided to pass what their reasons were and adjusting your application strategy moving forward.