Experts Explain How to Land a Job You’re Overqualified For

With the unemployment rate at 4.1% or 6.6 million people, there’s a decent chance you’re currently looking for a new position. Add in end of year layoffs and freshly stoked desire to switch industries or cities in the new year, and the likelihood climbs even higher.

In such a competitive market, what happens if the job you are applying for is only asking for five years of experience and you’ve worked for 10? Your need for employment remains unchanged, so how do you convince a hiring manager that you can ace the job? Ahead, we talk to the experts about to what consider and how to land a position no matter how many extra years your resume boasts.


“If I was sitting across from someone, I would make sure that they acknowledge that they are in a difficult situation and they are working hard to make a change,” says leadership coach Jennifer Farrer. She continues to say that when most people feel “knocked down” by the process, they can get stuck in the doing and the fixing, but it’s important to recognize yourself — to be aware that it isn’t a race and you are working on what you can to put yourself in a better, gainfully employed situation.


Career Passport founder and certified professional coach Jill Ozovek encourages candidates to “step back and dig into why they are applying for a job they’re overqualified for.”

“This is a really worthwhile place to start because oftentimes people don’t realize the reason they’re applying for it is due to a lack of feeling ‘worthy’ of a higher level job,” she says.


“Don’t assume anything, including that you are overqualified for a job,” says Farrer. “Maybe the job says three to five years of experience and you have 10 to 12, but saying you are overqualified is a defeatist attitude.”

Farrer says it is important to check your attitude at the door, and think about what the job can offer to you, such as stability and security, just as much as what you can offer to the job.

On that note, Ozovek says that “it’s critical you understand that you’re going to know a lot about the role that maybe your future colleagues don’t yet.” She continues, “It’s a delicate balance to ensure you’re asserting yourself as you would in any job while not coming off as condescending or potentially ‘above’ your boss. Politics are alive and well in work places, so burying your head in the sand about it is not advisable.”


Much like dating, applying for a job is a long dance between two parties over several different methods of communication. “You basically need to come up with a shared vision with this other person about what the job is and what the job could be in the future if you’re ultimately who they want,” says Farrer.


“Become very clear on what is important to you right now and what you think will be important to you going forward,” advises Farrer. Career strategies can and will change over time, so be cognizant of potential factors like money, vacation, growth opportunities, or flexibility.


Perhaps you are making a switch from the corporate world to fitness instruction, or something else that you have little experience in. Focus on the information in the job description and how your talents and experiences can be applied, says Farrer.

“Before you talk with someone, you don’t really know anything besides the job description, so work hard to have answers and apply your resume and interview to those needs,” she offers


It can be very hard to tailor experience downward if you’re in a field where people can see what you’ve done and especially if it’s one of those “everyone knows everyone” kind of industries, explains Ozovek.

“When I still worked in the corporate world, I took a role that was a step down from my managing director title and the reason I was doing that was because I wanted to get back to my roots of my love for ‘doing the work’ rather than managing people, processes, and spreadsheets all day,” she recalls.

“It can be difficult to convince potential employers, but the bottom line is that not everyone wants to be the top dog. If you’re persuasive and clear in your reasoning for why you’re doing this, and it’s not about a lack of confidence, then that authenticity will shine through.”


If you are concerned with your income or getting back into the market immediately, Farrer reminds her clients that the higher you get up, there are fewer roles to consider, regardless. “If you are in fact needing to make a change that doesn’t exactly line up with your experience, be sure to explain to the hiring manager your commitment and enthusiasm,” she says. “Part of the onus on us as applicants is to reassure the hiring manager that you really want the job.”


Similarly, in understanding what potential hiring managers what might want, don’t assume anything. “Don’t spent a lot of time and energy on what potential objections might be because you will spend a lot of time and energy on something they may have not considered,” says Farrer.

She encourages her clients to follow the 90/10 rule—90% is a focus on the positive, what you want and what the employer wants and 10% of the time, acknowledge the objection. Any hiring manager is going to have reservations about any prospective candidate, but it’s your responsibility to turn concerns into possibilities.

Ozovek says, indeed, there might be employers who will assume you’ll be bored in the role and leave ASAP, but if you believe you’ll learn something and bring something to the table, the best thing to do is be upfront about it.

“If they ask anything about your over-qualifications, the best bet is to bring everything to the forefront,” she says. Imagine saying “I understand you’re concerned about my past work experience and how I would contribute or thrive here. Rest assured that I can see this as a learning opportunity for XYZ reasons and I actually think it’s the perfect fit. I would bring XYZ that you are looking for right now and you and the others at this organization would teach me X.”

She continues, “Really, when you’re listening to what the company needs and you’re able to infer how you can help them and how they can help you, it’s a very convincing argument.”

By Priya Rao