Today’s job market is unique. Great IT talent is in demand, and more opportunities than ever are available for the right candidates. However, when enthusiastic, talented professionals head into job interviews looking for their next IT career opportunities and are met with an “overqualified” objection, it can be frustrating.
How to overcome the “overqualified” label
There are a few different scenarios that may prompt you to apply for a job that is technically beneath your skills or experience. Still, some employers can be scared off initially by resumes and candidates that appear too qualified. Here are some steps you can take to avoid the label and land your dream IT job:
Tackle the objection head on. One of the best ways to avoid an “overqualified” label and make your way through the hiring process is to address the elephant in the room from the get go. Maybe you’ve been wanting a foot in the door with an incredible company, and while you’re technically more than a bit qualified for this opening, you’re willing to work your way up for an opportunity with such a great company. Or maybe you’re looking to change industries and apply your experience in a new realm. A few lines in your cover letter explaining, “At first glance I might seem a bit overqualified, but here’s why I’m a great fit for your company,” can dispel any fears and also help you really stand out with hiring managers.
Change up your resume. You may have pages of impressive accomplishments and skill sets, but to avoid that overqualified label and get through that initial screening in the hiring process, you’re going to need to change up your resume. First, tighten your resume so that you only list your experience and accomplishments that relate directly to the new role. If your experience doesn’t relate literally to the new position, take a look at the job posting and go through each bullet - identify your past experiences to help build a strong case for your background in those areas, and highlight those. Keep it clear and concise - tell your story, but build enough interest that you can talk in more details when you get the interview.
Be prepared to demonstrate loyalty. One of the biggest concerns employers have when it comes to overqualified talent is that they’re going to jump ship quickly and move on to bigger and better roles as soon as something else comes along. While your words in an interview can help a bit with this, most employers aren’t going to feel secure unless you can really demonstrate that you’re someone who’ll be here to stay. No one wants to hire an employee that will be bored or unchallenged to the point they’ll want to move on quickly! One tool that can help here is your choice of professional references. Choose references that can attest to your commitment to employers, your willingness to go above and beyond. Also, someone who has witnessed a stable, longer history with an employer is especially beneficial for a reference. Think about examples where you went above and beyond at previous employers - maybe you worked extra hard on the annual holiday card, coming in after hours or working on it from home. Perhaps you led the party planning committee or helped coordinate after-work happy hours. Show that you’re a leader inside and outside the office, and someone who is committed to your employer, and you can definitely help dispel some fears that you’ll jump ship.
Partner with a staffing firm. This one may seem obvious considering my role, but working with a staffing firm means that this objection can often be circumvented before you’ve even met with an employer. When you have a recruiter watching your back, explaining your background and motivations to an employer, any fears are often old news by the time you’ve gone in for an interview. Finding new IT career opportunities can be stressful enough on its own, taking away the stress of worrying about over qualification can be a big help!