Applying for a job you’re overqualified for can be tricky. Follow these tips to avoid the overqualified stigma.
Overqualified: It’s a dreaded word no one wants stamped on their resume. But you can take several steps to help you , even if your experience level rivals your potential boss’s. ( to tweet this thought.)
Whether you’re looking for a job that’s a step down from a previous position for personal reasons (you’re looking to scale back on the job to focus more on the home front) or for practical reasons (you need a job to pay the rent), the first step is to recognize and embrace it.
The first place to do that is your cover letter. In the letter or email, say, “I recognize my previous experience looks like I wouldn’t be a good fit for this position, but I’m truly interested in it. I’m looking for a new challenge and believe this is it.”
If you feel comfortable revealing in the letter you’re looking to scale back so you can spend more time with your children, go ahead and say that. By answering the question before it’s asked, you’re showing openness and honesty, qualities many employers appreciate.
It’s also important to say in your cover letter that you’re excited about the job and how it fits with your long-term goals. That sends the message you’re not just taking the job because you’re desperate (even if you are, never, ever admit to it!).
If you don’t feel comfortable saying anything in your cover letter about your new career direction, you can make several tweaks to your resume to take the focus off past titles:
1. Choose your words carefully
If applying for a non-managerial job, shy away from terms like “overseeing,” “supervision” and other words with managerial tone. Focus instead on work-specific skills the job you’re applying for requires. Discuss your skills in concrete ways and explain how they relate to the job you’re looking to fill.
Keep your resume simple and leave off unrelated experience and education, focusing only what jobs and degrees relate to the one you’re applying for.
If you want to include all jobs to avoid questions about gaps in your employment history, go ahead, but keep the explanation short — just your job title and the dates you worked. And that master’s degree that has no bearing on the job? Just leave it off.
3. Play down titles
If you were a manager at a previous job and are looking for a job without a title, consider leaving past titles off your resume. Instead, list the company’s name, how long you were there and key job duties. Focus more on what you did rather than a job title.
4. Match words in your resume with those in the ad
This is a trick that works well for all job seekers. By using the same words in your resume that appear in the job ad, such as “organized” and “dependable,” you’ll catch the hiring manager’s attention.
If your cover letter and resume , be prepared to answer hard questions in person about why you’re interested in a “lesser” job or one you may have too much education for. Practice your answers in advance and be ready.
Remember to express enthusiasm for the position and how you see it fitting well with what you want to do long-term. Perhaps you’re starting over in a new field or are looking for a job where you can spend more time with your family. Whatever your answer is, be ready with it.
Also be prepared for the question, “How long do you think you’ll stay if we hire you?” When this question comes up, be ready with an answer such as, “I’m very interested in this position and see it fitting well with my long-term goals. I’m very excited about it.” Of course, you’ll need to be ready to say why you’re excited, so have those answers ready, too.
By putting together a well-written cover letter and resume and preparing in advance for tough interview questions, you should be able to shrug off that “overqualified” label and have employers see you as the worker who’s right for them.
specializes in writing on small business topics, personal finance, job hunting success and the healthcare industry. Visit her blog at or follow her on Twitter at @1bizzywriter.