Ask a Recruiter: How Do I Keep Myself From Looking 'Overqualified' For a Job?

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Allie Hofer32
April 16, 2024 at 11:39AM UTC

Want to know what recruiters are really thinking? In our Ask a Recruiter series, we invite you to take an exclusive look inside the mind of a real recruiter — Allie Hofer — to see how she approaches the hiring process.

Twice a month, Allie will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding the right job posting, emailing the right person, or landing yourself on a recruiter's desk, drop it in the comments.

Q:  How do I keep myself from looking “overqualified” for a job I really want?

I see you. You’re looking for flexibility in your career because clocking 8-5 in the office five days a week on top of a long commute doesn’t work for your family anymore. You want to be there to drop your kids off at school, volunteer in the classroom, and at the very least, cook them a homemade dinner. Or maybe you’re looking for a company that prioritizes modern health benefits, like a company that believes in supporting you in your infertility journey or one who will let you freeze your eggs while you scale the corporate ladder. Regardless of your motivation and life stage, there are times in our career when taking a pay cut or taking on a role with decreased responsibilities is not only necessary, but exciting.

Unfortunately, candidates who are overqualified are often overlooked by talent acquisition managers because, from our perspective, although you claim you may be interested in the job today, we fear that you may miss your compensation or managerial responsibilities and become bored with the opportunity. In this case, it is important for candidates to get in front of the recruiter or hiring manager at the application stage and not wait for the chance to be invited in for the interview to explain why they are interested in the position. Because without that type of forward, chances are we’ll move on pretty quickly from your application. 

Here's how to make sure you get in front of a hiring manager: 

1. Bring Back the Cover Letter

I review hundreds of job applications a week, and it is rare that cover letters are included with a resume and job application (PS - don’t forget to read up on the last Ask a Recruiter post about the most important part of the job application). Because it’s no longer a secret that Applicant Tracking Systems are parsing resumes and scoring them for talent acquisition managers based on fit, candidates are putting a significant amount of effort into their CV. For most jobs, I am not focused on whether or not the candidate includes a cover letter, but in instances where their resume needs some explaining (job hopping, career break, or in this case, being overqualified for the role), this becomes increasingly important. In your cover letter, highlight the specific responsibilities and components of the job you’re most interested in and convey your excitement for incorporating this new type of responsibility into your next role.  

2. Write an Email. 

Another way to stand out is to directly reach out to the hiring manager, recruiter, or any other individual at the company who you think might have something to do with the job you're applying to. The purpose of the email is slightly different than the cover letter, and should call out the fact that you realize you might be overqualified for the job, but that the position helps you better achieve your work-life or career objectives. Remember, this is not the time to overshare. Explaining how you’re looking for a work-from-home arrangement because you’ve just welcomed newborn twins into the world is probably not going to land you the job. And convincing employers that you want decreased management responsibilities because you’re launching a side hustle is also not going to land you the job, despite it being an impressive endeavor! Be sure to express your interest without getting too personal. 
The key to convincing employers that you’re a long-term fit despite having work experience that exceeds the job at hand is by incorporating your interest, value, and career objective into your cover letter and email. 
Hi, there! I’m Allie Hofer, an HR professional and work-life balance enthusiast. More officially, I’m a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Society of Human Resource Management – Certified Professional (SHRM-CP). After having my first child, I opted out of the traditional office setting to work from home. Since then, I have been consulting with organizations in the public and private sectors to support the Human Resources function in recruiting, compensation, training and development, and performance management. I started Office Hours to offer a boutique HR solution for small and medium-sized businesses and to help candidates navigate and completely own their career paths

What’s your most burning job search question? Drop it in the comments below and our expert recruiter may answer it in a future post!

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