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Working Wise: Overqualified? Overcome it!

Dear Working Wise,

I recently applied for a Warehouse Manager position, but during the interview I was told that I was overqualified. It’s true that I do have years of experience supervising crews, but I thought that would be an asset. Do you have any advice?
Signed, Eager to Work

April 5, 2016

Dear Eager,

Hiring managers tell candidates they are overqualified for a lot of reasons.

They may be avoiding telling you that they don’t think you’ll fit into their corporate culture, that you didn’t make a good first impression, or that you looked better on paper than you did in person.

Employers also have a host of reasons for not hiring people they really do perceive as being overqualified.

They may be concerned that you will

  • expect a quick promotion
  • get bored with the job too quickly
  • leave as soon as you find a better job
  • want more money than other applicants
  • have performance issues that caused you to leave your last job
  • be unhappy working for someone younger or less experienced

However, there are many good reasons people apply for jobs that they are overqualified for, including

  • new graduates with a lot of education, but limited experience
  • recent immigrants who need Canadian work experience or need to support themselves while they earn their Canadian credentials
  • changes in your personal life, including child care, elder care and family relocation
  • desire for less responsibility/overtime and a better work-life balance
  • fewer opportunities due to a more competitive labour market
  • desire to change careers or work after retirement

Here are some tips to help you reassure employers and get them excited about hiring you:

  • Target your resumé to the position and company’s needs.
  • Use your cover letter to talk about how this position fits into your long term career plans.
  • Focus on how your experience or education will benefit the organization.
  • Be ready for the question, “Aren’t you overqualified for this job?” Explain why you are interested in this job using some of the positive reasons outlined above or others that might apply to your situation.
  • Show your excitement for the job, how you can contribute, and how this move makes sense in your career path.
  • Ask the interviewer(s) if they have any remaining concerns. Use this opportunity to address any outstanding doubts that they might have and reassure them that you plan to make this appointment a long-term success.

If you want any other job search tips or advice on being overqualified, check out the Overqualified? Make the Best of Your Experience article on the ALIS website.

Good luck!

Photo Credit: © iStockphoto/kzenon

Working Wise is a syndicated newspaper column prepared by the Government of Alberta to answer work-related questions from Albertans. Do you have a work-related question? You can send it to Charles Strachey (charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca), a manager with Alberta Community and Social Services.

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