As strange as it may sound, over-qualification isn’t always an asset. In fact, it can be a serious liability, especially in an employment landscape where fit and relevance are almost always preferred over credentials that are conventionally “impressive.”
Sometimes employers are looking for a candidate with an unbroken track record of A pluses. But sometimes they’re actually looking for something else, and the ideal candidate they have in mind will come with a few Bs and Cs on her career report card.
If you’re struggling to find work and you think over-qualification may be holding you back, keep these considerations in mind:
Overqualified Candidates Are Expensive
Employers are often concerned that they’ll have to pay more for a candidate who can offer years of experience, a long list of certifications, or an advanced degree.
And they’re right. Candidates with these kinds of credentials can command a higher salary on the general marketplace, and employers who can’t keep them happy will eventually lose them to competing companies who can.
Unfortunately, when some employers review a resume submitted by an overqualified candidate, they don’t contact the candidate to confirm their salary requirements. They just move on the next resume in the stack.
Overqualified Candidates Might Be Unreliable
Managers would usually rather avoid bringing on a new hire who will keep the position only until she finds something better. Using a job as a placeholder or stepping stone is a perfectly legitimate practice that can help candidates keep their career growth on track. But this move can be costly and irritating for employers who have to watch a new employee walk out the door and then re-start the hiring process from square one.
Overqualified Candidates Sometimes Come With an Attitude
When the economy slows down and the job market tips in favor of employers, highly qualified senior-level workers sometimes find themselves accepting positions that represent a step down the ladder. These employees can find it difficult to take orders from younger or less knowledgeable managers, and easily threatened managers would rather sidestep the friction this can generate in the workplace.
What to Do if You’re Applying for Jobs “Beneath You”
If managers are overlooking your resume because you have a few more credentials than they need, it may be time to reevaluate the positions you’re targeting. Aim a little higher, and if you aren’t sure how to adjust your sights, talk to a mentor, recruiter, or staffing expert to learn more about the kinds of opportunities available to candidates at your level. You can also consider lowering your salary expectations, but use this move only as a last resort.
Meanwhile, take a closer look at your resume. For each application you submit, emphasize the credentials that are relevant to that position, and consider omitting some of the qualifications that might place you in a higher salary bracket. For help with this process, visit LiveCareer. The site’s salary calculator can help you make more informed decisions as you apply for work.