10 Techniques to Overcoming the ‘Overqualified’ Label

I recently met an impressive woman who’s completing a PR grad degree as a way to switch careers.  With plenty of experience in her former profession, she’s now encountering the “you’re overqualified” roadblock as she seeks PR opportunities.  She essentially answered her own question, but she still wanted my two-cents worth. 

“I think people need to be better informed about accepting positions when you’re new to a field,” she observed.  “This is not to say that you should expect to come in as a director of a business practice because you were a director in the technology field, but it goes back to researching the various levels, asking the right questions, and understanding how your current skills are transferable and being able to sell it to the recruiter so that you are not put into a position where you are over qualified.” 

Although she wants to flee her current profession, I encouraged her to seek PR positions that take advantage of the knowledge she gained from it.  Although the first PR job may be at a lower level than desired, her expertise likely will result in faster promotions or serve as a springboard in a year or two to a better job elsewhere.   

Without a doubt, overcoming the “overqualified” label is no easy chore.  Online newsletter Quintessential Careers offers the following 10 tactics that might help anyone caught in this box:

  1. Let your network speak for you.  Nothing you could say about yourself is stronger than a recommendation from someone who knows you and can recommend you.  The ideal scenario is for you to use your network to find someone within the organization and let that person make the first pitch for you.
  2. Focus more on skills and accomplishments than job titles.  Use the employer’s own words — from the job description — to show how your skills match perfectly while at the same time downplaying skills not required for this job.
  3. Take salary off the table.  Make it clear from the beginning that you are completely flexible about salary — and that your previous salary is of no relevance to your current job-search.
  4. Reveal financial advantages of hiring you.  If you suspect salary will be a concern, use specific examples from your past experiences to show how you increased revenue generation and/or cut costs/realized increased savings.
  5. Emphasize teamwork and personality.  Demonstrate that you are a team player — that the success of the team is more important than any of the individual team members.
  6. Showcase current or cutting-edge knowledge.  Discuss recent training or skill-building that shows that you adaptable and up-to-date — not stuck in the ways of old.
  7. Demonstrate loyalty.  One method to attempt to overcome the fear that you will leave as soon as a better offers comes along is to point to your longevity with previous employers.
  8. Do what it takes to get the interview.  Be prepared to deal with the overqualified issue when you call to follow-up your application — and sell the hiring manager on at least giving you a “meeting” if not an interview so that you can make your case in person.
  9. Everything in moderation.  You should illustrate how you are the perfect candidate for the position without overwhelming the hiring manager with your experience — or your ego. Avoid intimidating a younger hiring manager.
  10. Express interest, admiration, and enthusiasm.  Nothing wins over a hiring manager more than a positive attitude and a passion for the job.

One thought on “10 Techniques to Overcoming the ‘Overqualified’ Label

  1. Great article! Anyone who is looking to make a career switch into or out of PR should consider all of the 10 tactics presented above.

    Although the 3rd tactic is probably the most challenging to overcome, it can be done with proper planning!

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