You may wonder “What’s wrong with being overqualified? Why wouldn’t they want someone with much more experience than required??”

But a hiring manager doesn’t just see impressive qualifications; they look down the track to a few potential problems:

  • You will get bored
  • You are just looking for ‘any job’ and will leave once something better comes along
  • Your salary expectations will be too high
  • You have ingrained habits and will be difficult to ‘mould’
  • You may struggle to be managed by someone who has less experience than you

As an overqualified candidate your only real plan of attack is to be honest and convincing to allay those concerns at the outset. Ideally, in your cover letter you should concisely explain why you are applying for a job that could be considered a step down.

Some examples:

“After X years as a departmental manager, I’ve decided that my real passion is for the hands-on work involved in Y position and would like to resume work in that area.”

“As I am wanting to transition into a new industry, I understand that I’ll need to apply myself at an entry-level position.”

“At this point in my career, salary has become less important and I am more concerned with finding work that excites me. This opportunity excites me because of X, Y, Z.”

“I’m looking for a lower-stress position which will allow me to spend more time with my family/study/other commitment.”

If you do manage to make it through the first stage, being overqualified is likely to come up at numerous points in the process. Re-iterate your genuine reasons for wanting a lower-level position and address any salary issues by confirming you will be happy to negotiate a reasonable salary at market value for the position. As always, try to move the conversation towards your strengths and general fit to the role, with special emphasis on commitment and any long-term goals you have for the role.