Overqualified but applied anyway – NOT a desperate move
I have applied for positions I was overqualified for and thankful for what I learned from them. There are a few reasons someone might be overqualified but apply anyway. Rarely, if ever, are any of those reasons a desperate move or because one simply desires contentment or lacks professional development desire.
Some reasons include:
- Job loss and/or need for employment
- Returning after a career gap due to health, caregiving, education, etc.
- Relocating and seeking employment in a new state or even a new country
- Changing career field
- Seeking better benefits; health, retirement, education assistance or flexible schedule
My reason was a combination of a few listed above. Those reasons, although unseen at first, worked out perfectly and led me to my current employer, where I have been happily employed for almost five years. Without my ‘overqualified’ opportunities, throughout my career, I would not be career happy today!
Several years ago, I found myself in a position at a company that was facing budget cuts. My hours were reduced and benefits lost. I started my search for a new position and one of my own main requirements was benefits. I needed health insurance and retirement opportunities and wanted to stay within the industry I had most of my career experience in. When I started my search, I realized there were only a few local positions available with my requirements. One required a degree I did not have (and included a pay cut) another was a bigger pay cut; 20% less than my average income and I was overqualified.
The latter offered great benefits though with paid tuition, 100% paid health insurance premiums and above average retirement matching. I knew with my experience and overqualifications the interview committee would want to know why I would be willing to take a pay cut and less work responsibilities. So, I did some research and prepared some answers to possible questions.
Preparation tips include:
- Research the company, the mission statement and core values also, research new projects and programs they are offering. When you can add comments during the interview that show you have knowledge of a mission statement or current project it indicates your interest and you’d be invested in the position/company even if you are overqualified
- Be familiar with names of those interviewing you and department heads you’d work with
- Be prepared to highlight skills and experience related to the specific position’s requirements. Connecting with the job description focuses on the skills you will bring and how they uniquely relate to the position. This can be a time-consuming task, but by breaking down each required skill with those that you have helps you not only prepare for the interview, but also creates a better vision of what the position most likely will be like and how you match to it…you might even decide that the position is not one you want to apply for.
- Prepare answers for anticipated questions the committee might ask. For example, prepare a statement about why you are willing to accept a position that pays less than your past career opportunities. You could comment that the benefits and education assistance are key points that allow you take a decrease in pay. If asked why you are interested in the position, have a specific answer in mind. Connect at least one of your skills and one job requirement that is of most interest to you.
- Ask questions during the interview. I know this is sometimes difficult, but by studying the company and the position details you are ready to show your knowledge and ask specific questions. For example, I noticed on your website that some board members are out of state, will I help coordinate their travel needs for board meetings? Questions specific to the company and position helps the interviewer see your professionalism and value you would bring to the company (which helps diminish the ‘what if they get bored’ thoughts, since you are obviously already somewhat invested in the position/company and not afraid to take initiative and ask questions). You almost say ‘I won’t allow myself to get bored here, because I will always be one step ahead, focused on timelines and researching the most efficient ways to complete tasks’.
- BUT – Prepare an answer if asked about possible boredom. A possible response could be – I will utilize any downtime researching professional development opportunities such as free or low-cost webinars, training, conferences, etc. I will also develop a desk manual and evaluate best practices for policies and adjust as necessary. I will also look into opportunities to be active in company committees, keeping myself and the department updated on any company-wide changes.
Creating educational opportunities in any position you accept benefits your future and the company’s. It allows you to make the position adapt to you and all you have to offer, not adapting to a position that you may not thrive in otherwise. Possible boredom is alleviated when you continue learning and create better procedures; your workday becomes the most productive it can be. Being prepared and highlighting the skills and experience you have developed, learned and made unique to you is a skill in itself, it shows your professionalism, demeanor, creativity and more…all traits employers seek.
Even though that position with the great benefits that I accepted failed to work out due to circumstances out of my control, I refused to not learn from it. I learned interviewing skills, tips from a brief training period and one coworker in particular who shared her years of knowledge and experience with me during several lunches we had. I asked her a lot of questions and I’m grateful for the answers she shared. I learned additional confidence and to speak up when the position’s duties radically changed within days of being hired. And as a bonus, the day I left that position I applied for my current job and within one month was hired! True story; happy next chapter!
I don’t regret the position, cut in pay or even the negative quick change it took. All career and even personal interests are learning experiences if you choose to accept them that way. Constant learning with gratitude is a state of mind. If that company had not reduced my hours, if the option that encouraged me to leave that position had not had a negative outcome…I would never have traveled my journey to my current position which has offered me so many personal and professional development opportunities, continued skill learning and so many chances to work with an amazing team and managers!
What have you experienced lately that seemed potentially negative at first, but led to a positive impact on your career?
Dana Buchanan is a 20 plus year professional assistant with a passion for writing and offers a unique and professional perspective to projects and brainstorming sessions! She enjoys helping others discover key steps toward their career focus, job search, or self-employment exploration by creating or editing resumes, researching a particular type of job search, discovering business ideas and the action needed to succeed and loves sharing interviewing tips! Dana is also available to speak to small groups.