Resume Tips for the Overqualified Job Seeker

If you're often labeled as "overqualified" during a job search, your resume may need some revamping. You can address the overqualified issue in your resume by limiting your work history to the most recent positions you’ve held that target the job opening. Having too much experience in one job can also be seen as a detriment.

Too many qualifications for the job

To avoid seeming too old or too highly paid, limit your related experience to about 15 years for a managerial job and to about 10 years for a technical job.

What about all your other experience? Leave it in your memory bank. Or if you believe that the older work history adds to your value as a candidate, you can describe it under a heading of Other Experience and briefly present it without dates, as shown in the following resume example.

Focus on recent experience to alleviate the perception of being overqualified.
Focus on recent experience to alleviate the perception of being overqualified.

Click here to view this resume.

If you're seeking a job that enables you to take life easier physically or to have more time to yourself, spell it out in your resume’s objective. Writing this kind of statement is tricky. You risk coming across as worn-out goods. When you explain your desire to back off an overly stressful workload, balance your words with a counterstatement reflecting your energy and commitment:

Energetic and work-focused but no longer enjoy frenzied managerial responsibility; seek a challenging nonmanagerial position.

Too much experience in one job

Another type of overqualified issue relates to having too much experience in a single job. Here are strategies for meeting this issue head-on:

  • Divide your job into modules: Show that you successfully moved up and up, meeting new challenges and accepting ever more responsibility. Divide your job into realistic segments, which you label as Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and so on. Describe each level as a separate position, just as you would if the levels had been different positions within the same company or with different employers. If your job titles changed as you moved up, your task is easier.

  • Deal honestly with job titles: If your job title never changed, should you just make up job titles? No. The only truthful way to inaugurate fictional job titles is to parenthetically introduce them as “equivalent to. . . .” Suppose that you’re an accountant and have been in the same job for 25 years. Your segments might be titled like this:

    Level 3 (equivalent to supervising accountant)

    Level 2 (equivalent to senior accountant)

    Level 1 (equivalent to accountant)

    If you lack increasingly senior job titles, fill your resume with references to your continuous salary increases and bonuses and the range of job skills you mastered.

  • Tackle deadly perceptions head-on: Diminish any perception that you became lazy while staying in the same job too long by specifically describing clockless workdays: “Worked past 5 p.m. at least once a week throughout employment.”

    Derail the perception that you don’t want to learn new things by being specific in describing learning adventures: “Attended six semesters of word-processing technologies; currently enrolled in adult education program to master latest software.” Explain that although your employment address didn’t change, professionally speaking, you’re widely traveled in outside seminars, professional associations, and reading.

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