The Covid 19 pandemic has turned the world of work on its head, with some commentators asserting that we shall never again go back to the model we knew.
Hybrid working, remote onboarding, and business pivots are all situations that individuals and business leaders have had to navigate over the last 18 months.
On an individual level, it has forced us all to take a step back and look at our careers. It has made us reflect on what is important to us. As we emerge on the other side, many professionals are re-evaluating if we want to work in the same way – as hard, as long, or even in the same sector.
For many industries, the pandemic forced a shutdown. Some businesses have been unable to reopen their doors in its wake. These workers have been left redundant; forced to apply for jobs that are perhaps outside their skillset. For some, it is a chance to start afresh or to follow the path they wish they had trod. For others, it leaves them applying for jobs that are not as senior as the ones they left. They have had to reprioritize and compromise in order to re-enter the workforce. Some have been forced to take a step back and apply for jobs they’re overqualified for in order to eventually move forward.
Why are employers wary of overqualified candidates?
Employers are often hesitant about employing candidates who are overqualified. So what can you do if you are a job seeker whose skills, experience, and knowledge exceed those required for the role you are applying for?
These are a few suggestions that may help you if you are overqualified for the role you want. They may help you to market yourself to increase your chances of success.
1. Compensation Demands.
Higher qualified candidates demand higher salaries. At first, these candidates may be willing to accept less for a lower-skilled role, but the chances are they’ll soon expect a salary increase.
Whilst we were in lockdown we spent less. There were far fewer opportunities to spend money. As the world opens up, our lifestyles are beginning to return to normal. We need the salary we had before to sustain it. A smaller take-home salary may be OK for a while, but it’s likely there will be a time when we wish to have our pre-pandemic financial freedoms.
2. Harder to manage.
It is a common belief that overqualified candidates are harder to manage. If a candidate is starting out in a new sector or has been forced to take a junior or entry-level position, they may have to take direction from line managers who are younger than them or are less academically qualified.
3. Job dissatisfaction and boredom.
Those who are out of work may be forced to accept jobs they don’t want and that they are overqualified for. If this is the case, employers have concerns about employee engagement. How long can they expect an employee to be interested and committed to a role that doesn’t challenge them?
4. Quick turnover.
Employing overqualified candidates also causes organisational problems for businesses. Overqualified employees tend to leave a role faster than those who are working at the right level. These gaps mean that the costs and inconvenience of hiring, onboarding, and training are often repeated.
Additionally, business leaders fear overqualified employees are using the position as a sidestep or as a means to something else; a temporary filler until something better comes along.
There is of course a cohort that is willing to take a financial hit; those who are actively seeking less responsibility or who want to take a step back.
How should you tackle being overqualified for a role you want?
If you fall into this group, there are some tactics that you can use to make sure employers don’t disregard your application based on your past experience.
Customise your CV.
Most job seekers know that they need to tailor their CV for each role they apply for. When there is a disparity between the candidate’s skills and experience and the requirements for the role, this becomes more important.
In most cases, the skills that make a candidate overqualified for a role are not relevant to the position in question. In this instance, these skills can be omitted from the CV. Rather than listing their most impressive credentials, candidates should tailor their CV with responsibilities from past positions that directly relate to the new role’s duties and requirements.
Include a cover letter.
Cover letters are not strictly necessary when submitting a CV. However, when you need to communicate specific and relevant information, they are useful. In this situation, a cover letter would explain why an overqualified candidate may be applying for a role that appears to be below their qualification level.
The cover letter could be rich in details about why a candidate is interested in a particular company or explaining why the role is attractive. The cover letter could also be used to communicate any pertinent personal reasons for the application. This could include location, a change in family circumstances, or the work/life balance.
Your cover letter can demonstrate a genuine interest in the role and company, as well as your reasons for the application.
Prepare your responses in advance.
At an interview, candidates should anticipate and prepare for questions regarding their overqualification.
For example, if you sense that your interviewer is apprehensive about your intention to job-hop, perhaps you could make a point of any long-term employment you have held in the past.
You may also like to share your references so that the hiring manager can see you are applying for the right reasons and would be an asset to the company regardless of your overqualification.
Over-qualified candidates may like to think in a strategic way about how they approach roles for which they are overqualified. The scope of a role may change in the future and highly qualified candidates will slide more easily into a role with responsibilities that may grow. This may benefit companies in the long run, facilitating rapid growth and profitability.
Hiring an employee whose qualifications exceed the position’s requirements can be an investment in the company’s future.
The pandemic has caused all of us to readdress our priorities, including what we want from our careers. For some, this has been forced upon us. Redundancies and job loss have been catastrophic and long-lasting consequences of COVID 19.
For others, the pandemic has made us look at our work/life balance and conclude that there was no balance at all. These professionals may be seeking roles needing fewer qualifications by choice; actively seeking roles beneath their current pay grade.
Whatever the reason, experienced and well-qualified job seekers must market themselves to employers and position their overqualification as an asset rather than a risk.