Overqualified and unemployed

By Kristen Carter, Guest Contributor

Do you fear your resume will fall into the pile for applicants judged to be overqualified, or even worse, placed directly in the trash? Being overqualified should be seen as a positive attribute rather than a deficiency, yet in today’s job market this label can carry with it a negative connotation. Why? The concern employers feel about hiring an overqualified candidate is driven by anxiety that such a candidate will be bored in the position or the candidate will bolt as soon as a better opportunity comes along.

Now, there are many valid reasons why individuals may be willing to take a lower level job. Senior level executives may be looking for a position that is less time-consuming and not as demanding as the positions they may have held previously. Others may be looking to launch into a new field, which requires them to take an entry-level position. Some people may want a better work-life balance, so they’re applying for stimulating jobs with flexible schedules, while still others may have simply been down-sized.

Careerrealism.com, a blog dedicated to providing “cutting-edge career advice,” weighs in on this topic in an article titled, “3 Resume Tips to Avoid Appearing Overqualified.” Their conclusion? An abundance of highly qualified candidates does exist, with not enough positions available. Because of this, they suggest a few tips to help candidates use their resume as a marketing tool.

  1. Candidates should only include relevant work experience. It is critical that applicants focus on what the employer is actually looking for and tailor their resumes accordingly. If management is not a skill that is listed in the job description, then it should not be highlighted.
  2. Mentioning one’s education is required, but it is recommended that focus should only be placed on those degrees necessary to complete the job. Candidates should not include additional education if it is of little relevance to the position for which they are applying.
  3. Candidates must create a cover letter, one strong enough such that it buys face time with the potential employer. In other words, you must use a cover letter to communicate your interest in the position, but also convince the hiring manager that you will still be with the company a year from now.

Typically, job seekers will not be aware if they have been lumped into the overqualified pile for the simple reason that prospective employers are hesitant to reach out straightforwardly to over-qualified candidates. Consequently, it is essential that you aim to be viewed by prospective employers as fully-qualified–rather than overqualified–and to not include everything you have accomplished to date on your resume.

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