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Some of the most frustrating job applications are those that come back with the message ‘You are overqualified’. For those individuals who have spent years working in the industry and building up a wealth of experience and expertise, to be hit with the realisation that not all companies actually want this can be something of a blow.

The BBC News website recently delved further into the issue, looking at why this bias exists and what candidates can do to resolve it.

Speaking to Jonathan Mazzocchi, a partner at US recruiting firm WinterWyman, the article explains that hirers tend to use three categories when assessing overqualified candidates: either they think that the role is too junior for the applicant’s experience, or that the applicant would be bored as they wouldn’t be using all their skills, or they think the person would leave the job soon after starting.

The candidate’s main task, then, is to change these perceptions by selling themselves effectively, using the following advice:

Adapt your CV

One way to turn perceptions around is by using your CV as a marketing device in itself. Although it might pain you to do so, leave out details that aren’t relevant to the position you’re applying for or that date back more than ten years. This could even include degrees, if you have lots of them – being ‘overly educated’ is a common problem, so only mention the ones that are needed for that role.

You should also make sure that your online profiles – such as LinkedIn – match what you’ve said in your CV. If you make it to interview stage, use this time to explain the details you left out and why you chose to do so.

Bypass HR

We know this can be seen as a cardinal sin but try to avoid going through the human resources department, if you can. Ideally a good recruiter should be able to help here. Targeting the individuals with the authority to hire – and who get the final say – will improve your chances as they can be more willing to consider applicants who are ‘off brief’ than an HR team following instructions. For example, salespeople should contact the sales manager or vice president of sales – namely, the person who is in ‘immediate need’. And if you really have to go through human resources, thoroughly edit your CV so that you fit the spec and make it through the early stages.

Show enthusiasm

Whatever you do, do not give the impression that the position would be a walk in the park or that you could do it with your eyes closed – this will only ring alarm bells for managers. Show energy and passion, explaining why this role suits your current career goals and how your experience could benefit the employer – for example, that your experience has given you in-depth knowledge and a wide network of contacts.

It can also be a good idea to look for a role in a different sector or industry to the one that you’re used to; this will allow you to use your experience, but challenge you to embrace new tasks and ways of doing things.

Do you think that being over-qualified can be almost as much of a problem as being under-qualified? What other ways can candidates combat this?

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