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Should You Apply for a Job When You’re Overqualified?

by Janna Kefalas in Job Search

I recently had a client ask me if he should apply for a position he knew he was overqualified for. He had recently been laid off, and in an effort to try and get back to work as quickly as possible, he was casting a wide net.

My short answer was … no.

But I could completely understand his reasoning. He was thinking, “Hey, I’ve got all this great experience. I could jump right in and practically do this job in my sleep.”

But unfortunately, employers don’t see it this way.

​If you apply for a job when you’re overqualified, these 3 fundamental fears may pop up in the mind of the employer:

Overqualified Fear ​#1 – You’ll Be Bored After Two Months & Leave Them for Something Better

​That whole “doing this job in your sleep” thing isn’t actually a benefit. If you’re overqualified for the role, the employer assumes you’ll just take this job as a placeholder until something more challenging and fulfilling comes along.

They think, “Why would we waste our time taking this candidate through multiple rounds of interviews, onboarding and training them — when we know there’s a good chance they could be out the door in 3-4 months when their dream job comes along?”

The risk of doing this is simply too great…

Overqualified Fear #2 – You’ll Be Too Expensive

​Aside from being too advanced in terms of skills and experience, employers also know that your salary history and expectations will likely be above what they have budgeted for this role.

​It’ll be hard for them to justify to upper management why they should increase the compensation if they have several candidates whose salary requirements are more in line with their budget.

But you might be thinking, “Well, money isn’t everything. I’m comfortable taking a pay cut, especially in this economy.”

​And that completely makes sense, but if the employer knows they’ll be underpaying you based on your level of expertise, they’ll see you as even more of a flight risk.

Overqualified Fear #3 – You’ll Upset the Apple Cart

​The flip side of ditching your employer when you get a better offer is getting a little TOO involved in your new role.

​With the treasure trove of knowledge you bring to this position, your new supervisor may either feel threatened by your vast expertise or worry you’ll want to do things YOUR way and not adapt to the team dynamic.

Therefore, if you apply for a job when you’re overqualified, you unfortunately won’t have the true knowledge of or control over the team’s heirarchy — and how your considerable experience may or may not mesh.

The Verdict

So, as you can imagine, I advised my client to pass on this lower level position and focus on ones that felt like a more appropriate fit. Because at the end of the day, fit is everything.

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