How to land a job when you are overqualified

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

Jan 16

With the current climate of unemployment (8.6% inNovember 2011, although it’s expected to rise closer to 9% once holiday retail workers are no longer needed), many workers are taking jobs for which they are overqualified.  Whether it’s the young college graduate with a master’s degree taking a part-time retail job to an experienced career-worker having to take a job he did as a twenty-five year old, being overqualified can be a depressing reminder of how a recession takes its toll.

Recent college graduates with degrees but little work experience are often hit the hardest and have a very difficult time finding any employment, but those in their forties and fifties have also been affected.  And when you continue to send out applications and resumes with no response to positions for which you are overqualified but under-experienced, how do you work around that issue to land employment?  Below are some tips to get the job--even if it’s not your dream one.

Edit your accomplishments in your resume, but don’t delete them entirely

You don’t want come off as a liar, but opening your resume with how you brought your former company millions of dollars in contracts while applying for an administrative assistant position will land your resume in the dreaded “no" pile.  Someone looking at your resume will assume that you will leave the company as soon as you can find something better. So how do you go about down-playing your skills?

According to Monster.com, you should “create a functional resume where relevant skills are pumped up in detail toward the top of the resume, while overly impressive titles are demoted to the bottom and given little ink.”  So for that bottom-rung admin job, emphasize your communication, typing, time-management, and customer-service skills as opposed to your skills in landing million-dollar contracts.  At the bottom, you can then mention the contract-getting, but perhaps without the dollar signs attached.

When interviewing for the job, be as enthusiastic as possible

Once you land that interview for the admin position, the interviewer will most likely probe you to see how you would feel about doing a job for which you are overqualified.  Make sure to be enthusiastic, emphasize your best attributes about how this job will be great for you and how you will be great for the company, and simply be engaging.  According to a USAToday article, “using your personality to engage people really can overcome some obstacles.”  Your resume may make the hiring manager hesitant, but if your accommodating, gung-ho personality shines through, you may land that job regardless.

If all else fails, go back to school

Let’s face it: a bachelor’s degree isn’t as useful as it was thirty years ago.  If you continue to lack decent employment or if your current position makes you want to scream with boredom, consider getting a master’s degree.  This should never be a choice made out of desperation, however, and should be considered carefully.

Will gaining a master’s truly help you with your employment issues, or will it only land you in more debt with still no job?  It may, in the end, be the best bet for getting a job for which you are qualified and maybe even enjoy doing, or at least give you some time to let the economy approve.  Either way, it’s sometimes the best choice when jobs are so scarce.

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This is a guest post from Emily Matthews. She is currently applying to masters degree programs across the U.S., and loves to read about new research into health care, gender issues, and literature. She lives and writes in Seattle, Washington.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.