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Overqualified? Make the Best of Your Experience

Using tried and true career planning and work search techniques will help you present your qualifications in a positive light.

There are many reasons why you may be overqualified for the work for which you’re applying. You may be:

  • A new graduate with plenty of training but limited experience
  • A recent immigrant with the necessary training but in the process of obtaining Canadian certification or lacking Canadian work experience
  • A worker at mid-career adjusting to job loss or experiencing changes in your personal life
  • An experienced worker looking for less responsibility and more enjoyment in life
  • A mature worker looking for a career change or work after retirement

If any of these descriptions fit, you could be bringing more qualifications to the job than employers are looking for.

The challenge

If you’re overqualified, potential employers may question why you would be interested in a job that requires less experience or education than you have. In this situation, an employer may be concerned that you will:

  • Want more money than others applying for the job
  • Expect a quick promotion
  • Leave as soon as you find a job that’s a better fit for your experience and skills or as soon as your professional certification is complete

How to meet the challenge

The following steps will help you with your job search and prepare you to respond to an employer’s concerns about your qualifications.

1. Focus on career planning to show the benefits of your qualifications

Start by considering your career plan. CAREERinsite can help you identify your short- and long-term career goals. When you know your goals, you’ll be able to develop a clear picture of what you want from the job. You will also know the skills and experience you can bring to that job. Present your qualifications in the most effective way. Employers will be more likely to recognize the benefits of hiring you.

For example, a recent immigrant is waiting for certification as an electrician. He or she could look for an entry-level job in the supply and fabrication department of a large electrical company. The goal after certification could be to work as a journeyman electrician for the same company. The employer would benefit from a knowledgeable worker in an entry-level position now. Later, they would have an electrician who is a proven employee, already familiar with the company.

2. Use effective job search techniques

Effective work search techniques will help you to connect with employers who will view your skills and experience as assets. Research every job you’re interested in and remember to:

  • Find out all you can about the organization.
    • Look for specific ways in which your skills and experience could benefit the employer.
    • Include your ideas in your resumé and cover letter, and in the interview
  • A skillfully written resumé will help you present your qualifications to your advantage:
    • Tailor your resumé to reflect each position you apply for. To avoid appearing overqualified, you may need to omit some elements. For example, leave out references to graduate education or mention only the work experience that relates to the position.
    • A carefully designed combination resumé allows you to focus on your core skills. It puts less emphasis on your experience. See Which Resumé Type Fits You Best? for examples of combination resumés.
    • Make it short. Keep your resumé two pages or less in length.
    • Don’t omit important information but choose your words carefully. For example, write "more than 10 years of experience" instead of "22 years of experience."
    • Describe your employment history by task rather than by job title. Instead of writing "Construction Manager,” write: "supervised construction."

3. Bring your positive energy to the interview

Know why you want this job and how your skills and experience will benefit the organization. Have confidence in your proven abilities. It will help you to maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview.

You may be more experienced than the employer. If so, this is an opportunity to demonstrate your good judgment and people skills. Allow the employer to take the lead, set the tone, and direct the flow of content during the interview. This will show your ability to take direction. It will put an end to any fears the employer might have that you want to take over the organization!

Following these steps will prepare you for the question: “You have an impressive resumé—aren’t you overqualified for this job?” Here are some suggestions that will help you respond to this question:

  • Explain how this job fits in with your career plans.
  • Talk about the non-monetary rewards the job offers. For example, mention a new career direction or valuable Canadian experience.
  • Assure the employer that you are a committed and loyal employee.
  • Talk about situations where you’ve worked successfully with co-workers who had various levels of skill and experience.
  • Focus on how your experience will benefit the organization.

4. Succeed at the job

When you get the job, focus on the work you were hired to do. Keep a positive attitude and review your career goals often. Remember why you wanted this job and how it’s helping you move towards your goals.

Make sure the employer knows your qualifications are an asset

Use tried and true career planning and work search techniques to present your qualifications in a positive light. Make sure you have a good fit and really want to do the job. You’ll then be ready to deal with employers’ concerns about your qualifications. You’ll be able to show employers you have a combination of skills and experience other candidates are unlikely to equal.

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