Overqualified Cover Letter Sample

How Overqualified Are You?

 Before I dig in and get down to the example, do you understand how overqualified you are? Readers of mine know in the past I have often talked about an HR mentor and friend who helped me excel in my career. What I haven’t mentioned is her story.

After much studying and many degrees in biology and dreams of working in a research lab somewhere, this is not how my friend and mentor’s career ended up. What she did end up doing was definitely successful, although it was nowhere near the biology world; she became a vice president for one of the major apartment construction and management companies in the nation.

In her case, it really was the job pool at the time, but when seeking out alternatives, she did have to learn to show how her management skills and education would qualify her as a top leader in the apartment construction and management business. In effect, she had to downplay her dreams of becoming a biology researcher but she still won in the end with a top management salary and sky-high benefits.

Before you learn how to write a cover letter for the overqualified job seeker, why do you feel you are overqualified? Were you an entrepreneur trying to break back into the regular workforce due to a business closure? Did you hold a top management position where the company went belly up? Whatever the reason, first make two lists:

Jobs You Want – This list should only be done after you do some research on available jobs. Seek out the help of online career boards like Monster or Career Builder to narrow down possible jobs.

Why You Are Overqualified – Once you have your must-have job list, make a list including words displaying why you are overqualified. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing research assistant but in the job you just lost you were a senior marketing executive, you might use words like: SWOT analysis expert, trend analysis experience, voice-of-the-customer surveys and focus group tabulation, account recommendations, and manager of 12 staff. Keep in mind the assistant marketing job you want may include some of the more tedious duties such as database management and even some computer duties you feel are on the clerical side. You don’t have to include your computer master skills but you may need to later in your resume.

What to do when you’re told you’re overqualified for a job

Sometimes having all the experience—and then some—can make it harder to land the position you want.

After you’ve worked at multiple jobs and tucked years of experience under your belt, you might feel like you’ve got the talent and expertise to land any position you want. What you might not expect is that your abundance of know-how can actually make it harder to get a job.

“Mid-level executives who are job hunting are sometimes faced with applying for a position where they may be overqualified based on their skills and experience,” says Cheryl Santiago, a career transition coach at GetHiredCoach.com. “This shouldn’t be a barrier [to employment], but often is.”

Hiring managers might figure you’re using this job opportunity as a temporary gig until a more senior position opens up elsewhere, or that you expect to earn a salary that’s commensurate with your experience. But just because a hiring manager thinks you look too good on paper doesn’t mean you’re out of the running.

Overcome your overqualification with these tactics.

Tweak your resume

A hiring manager might think a candidate with your experience will consider some of the tasks associated with the position to be beneath them. If you’re in a supervisory role, one subtle way to address this is to take on tasks you might otherwise assign to others and list them on your resume.

“That way, prospective hiring managers will see that you aren’t so far removed from those [lower-level] responsibilities as they may have previously thought,” says Lori Rassas, a career coach and author of Over the Hill But Not Over the Cliff: 5 Strategies for 50+ Job-Seekers to Push Past Ageism and Find a Job in the Loyalty-Free Workplace.

Of course, if you actually don’t want to do those tasks, you may want to re-think your interest in the position.

Don’t tiptoe around it

In your cover letter, address your experience mismatch outright. “Say you know you have certain skills or tenure that are above and beyond what the position calls for, but that you are looking for an additional type of challenge or opportunity,” says Alexandra Levit, a business speaker and author of Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can’t Afford to Believe

Not addressing the elephant in the room is a mistake, Levit says. “You aren’t making clear why the job in question is actually a good fit at this point in your life,” she says, “and all the hiring manager can think is, ‘It doesn’t make sense that this person is applying.’”

Focus on your interest in the job or company itself. Employers will be more likely to take a chance on you if you talk about why you’re passionate about the work rather than the fact that the job requires less travel or offers a shorter commute.

Emphasize your longevity

“The false assumption with overqualified candidates is that they will only take this job while they continue to search for the ‘right job,’” says Donna Shannon, president of Personal Touch Career Services. You’ll put everyone’s mind at ease if you stress that you’re in it for the long haul.

Again, use your cover letter or email introduction to explain why you want this exact job, and be upfront with the hiring manager during the interview that you understand this may be a concern—but that it’s one they need not worry about.

Be flexible on salary

One of the hurdles of bringing so much knowledge to the table is that interviewers expect you to want a commensurate paycheck. In most cases, they won’t augment the salary just because you have some extra know-how, so be prepared to take a pay cut if you want a job you could have taken several years ago.

“If the company asks about salary requirements, make sure to mention that you are flexible if the requested salary is less than what you made previously,” says Joseph Vijay Ingam, head career coach at Interview SOS in Los Angeles. “Never make it seem that the position is beneath you.”

Tap your network

Do you know someone who works for the company, or someone who knows the interviewer? Use that to your advantage. Whenever there’s an imbalance between what an employer is looking for and what you have to offer—be that too much or too little experience—knowing someone on the inside can be the key to unlocking doors.

“A marketing role opened up for one of my clients that was one level below her capability,” says Donna Svei, an executive resume writer at AvidCareerist.com. “She had been cultivating acquaintances who worked for the company through her wide circle of friends. She asked one of those people to give her resume to HR or the hiring manager and recommend her for an interview. It worked.”

Sell the advantages

Think about what your years of experience bring to the position, even if recruiters aren’t specifically looking for it. Instead of “overqualified,” view yourself as highly qualified with something extra to offer the company.

“My client positioned herself as bench strength for promotion when a next-level job opened up and reminded them that she would be there to train her replacement,” Svei says.

Emphasize that you are plenty capable of doing the job in question, and that your abundance of qualifications means you can assume greater responsibilities in less time than it would take to train someone else.

 


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