Is Being Overqualified Keeping You Underemployed?

A discussion I’ve had more than once lately with my clients and have seen recently in forum discussions, on the news and even on twitter is, “what to do when employers tell you you’re overqualified”. You’ve worked your entire career to be known as an expert and now when looking for a new position this has actually become a detriment to your future.

It doesn’t seem fair or even like a smart practice. Employers would rather hire a less qualified employee for $75K then hire an expert in their field, previously making $110K but willing to work for $35K less. Why wouldn’t you hire the candidate with the most experience? I understand the employers might think they’ll be bored or be easily drawn away from the position if something more lucrative comes along. But in reality they need a job and if they were good employees at their previous job, they most likely do this job well too.

Do the employers feel threatened? Maybe they think they’ll come in and make too many improvements, or they don’t want to work with someone at their level?

Reading an article earlier by Michelle Singletary with The Washington Post who agreed with my thoughts on the subject and gave a few suggestions to help deal with over qualification issues up front. First she suggests to simplify your resume. I really understand this but as a resume writer I don’t personally like the idea. If you are going to do this I suggest you keep your real resume as a master and use it when you can. Although it isn’t lying, withholding information may cause problems in your new position if they find out.


Michelle offers other great tips such as addressing concerns of over qualification and pay scales in the cover letter to let the reader know where you stand, often ever before you talk face to face. And finally, one that is so important right now for all job seekers; keep your attitude in check.


Make sure you come across as sincere and humble. You don’t want to have a know-it-all attitude, because you will not be asked back. Confidence is good arrogance is not so good!


Great article and great advice on how to deal with issues of being overqualified and the willingness to take less for a new position. In this economy it shouldn’t be to hard to understand people are more than willing to work in less than ideal conditions if it means they can pay their mortgage and feed their families.

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