How to Avoid the Overqualified Box

There could be a variety of reasons why you’re applying for a lower-level position: the need to try a different field, to cope with a new life situation, to take a break. But in that case, there’s a risk of appearing overqualified to recruiters. We’ll advise you on what to do to make sure this doesn’t happen and that you come across as a suitable candidate.

When a person applies for a job for which they are overqualified, they should be clear about why they are doing it. Maybe he/she has enjoyed the managerial position enough, maybe even burned out slightly on it, and now would like to do more work with less responsibility to allow time for family and other activities. After all, the situation in the last two years has often required a whole person on the job, and maybe someone has had enough and wants to ease off the gas.

This can apply to both men and women, candidates with young children and those who have grown up and want less stress and more time for themselves again. Likewise, the need to try a slightly different field may be behind applying for a lower-level position because there’s nowhere to grow in your current specialty. In short, every person is a slightly different reason.

Who do they want?

As always when someone is applying for a job, putting yourself in the shoes of the other party will help you succeed. Read the advert carefully and imagine the person they are looking for. What should he or she be able to do and what qualities do they want in a person? Try to imagine someone like that and put yourself next to them. What makes you stand out? And why might that matter when recruiting? There may be several reasons:

  • The company may be afraid that you won’t enjoy the job and will look elsewhere or think higher. In short, that you won’t last long in the job.
  • You will want more money than they are willing to offer.
  • There is a risk that you will grow over the head of your boss, who may not be as experienced.

Explain why

Not all of these assumptions can be refuted in a cover letter or resume. It’s hard to screw it up by saying you’re okay with a lower salary or that you won’t crawl into the boss’s cabbage. But if you explain your motivation sufficiently, i.e. why you are applying for the job, you can allay the employer’s fears to some extent.

Therefore, in a few lines, you can write down what kind of professional you are and what kind of experience you have, for example a senior salesperson.

Then state that you have decided to make a change in your career and why. For example, that you may have achieved a certain position in your last firm, but that you would now rather focus more on the actual sales job again rather than managing people, because you realise that you have started to miss dealing with clients, which you have always considered to be your strength. Or you might write that your priorities in life have changed and you would now like to better balance work and family life or leisure.

Don’t forget to include a few sentences about how you would be an asset to the company. For example, you might mention the great experience you have that allows you to work efficiently while dealing with any challenges with poise and calm.

Keep your CV simple

Usually, when writing a CV, one must stick to not adding something that they don’t quite know how to do. In this case, he needs to keep himself from writing out everything he can. Because an overly “fancy” resume could knock you out of the running for a position for which no one that experienced is needed.

So don’t put education and experience on your CV that is not needed for the advertised job. Leave out management courses. Don’t list people management, delegating work, etc. among your skills if they don’t want you to do any of those things. Instead, describe in more detail the work you have done in a similar position to the one you are applying for. Please also outline language skills as required.

Similarly, consider whether it is necessary to call your former positions by their “full titles”, for example Divisional Director for German Speaking Countries. If you are now heading down a few levels, it would be like transferring from a rocket to a cruise plane.

You can therefore perhaps use the phrase “Divisional Manager” (you don’t need to write for how big a territory) and also modify the job description and not list those tasks that are not required in the advert. Also leave out sophisticated terms and “lingo” common in senior management circles. The fact that you know it will be rather detrimental in this case.

You can explain everything at the interview

If you manage to get through to the interview, you have partly won. The important thing is not to come across as arrogant, as someone who still lives in the realm of high positions and is doing the employer a favour by taking a junior position. That wouldn’t do you any good. Better to show a willingness to adapt to the current situation and offer. Which doesn’t mean you should come across as defeatist or lacking in confidence. Showing that you have the right experience for the position is spot on. However, it pays to be honest and have the attitude that you know what you are doing and why.